The case for renting

Charlie Wilde • 24/04/2021

As Youth Week draws to a close, we examine renting from the perspective of renters under 30, and highlight a few of their suggestions to improve the renting experience for everyone.

For a growing cohort of young people, home ownership is no longer realistic. That’s what they told the Tenants’ Union and Youth Action in roundtable talks following our survey of over 300 young renters. In contrast to previous generations, they expect to rent for life.  High rents make it hard to save for a deposit. Escalating residential property prices put home ownership well out of the reach of most would-be purchasers, and not everyone can draw on the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad.’

“Most of us will never own our home and don't even aspire to it,” one young renter told us. “We've given up, as we know it's an unachievable dream. This makes our experience fundamentally different. Renting is permanent for us.” 

Is there an upside to renting as opposed to home ownership?

Yes, there is. Renting can give people the opportunity to live in an area they could not afford to buy in. It is also much more flexible, allowing people to relocate with greater ease than they might have if required to sell a property. Insurance premiums are lower for renters and (theoretically at least) the landlord must pay the extra expense of property maintenance. Monthly expenses over the term of the lease are predictable, allowing renters to budget with more certainty. Money that would have otherwise been diverted into paying down mortgage debt can be invested in other ways.

Sure, there are downsides too. The young renters at our roundtable identified the fear of rental increases, difficulty getting repairs done and the significant power imbalance between renters and their landlords. Tenants were justifiably uneasy at the prospect of long-term renting.

“Best case scenario, we have to deal with sh*tty landlords not allowing the the things that would actually make a life of renting more bearable.” 

So, what do young people think needs to change to make renting a comfortable and secure long-term option for people?

“Long term leases without constant rent increases, better protections for renters, pets always allowed.”

The potential to create gardens and (make) improvements was another idea to improve renting life. Other renters suggested changes to city planning and called for increases to community and public housing. Many wanted an opportunity to tell their story and be heard by other renters and decision makers.

The Tenants’ Union and Youth Action are using the data we gathered in our survey and roundtable discussions to identify ways we can better support young renters. In the meantime, to share your story as a renter, go to https://rentingfair.org.au/stories and watch this space for updates!