by Mary Harrington
Monday, 14
June 2021
Idea
16:15

Big Finance will make serfs of us all

All that is on offer to the young is a lifetime in rental accommodation
by Mary Harrington

According to the US house journal for Big Finance, the reason today’s young people remain in rental accommodation long past the point when previous generations had bought their own home, is because they don’t want to be tied down.

The generation that’s postponing or giving up on family formation and kids because of financial insecurity actually loves its fluid, flexible, move-at-the-drop-of-a-hat lifestyle.

That’s the justification given by the Wall Street Journal for a new phenomenon now taking root in the United States, in which entire estates of newbuilds are being constructed — not for sale to first-time buyers, but for rental.

This comes hot on the heels of news that colossal pension funds are moving aggressively into the private rental market. Numerous reports detail the American pension-fund stampede into family homes, pushing up prices and prompting concern that the drive will yank the cost of ‘starter’ homes beyond the grasp of ordinary first-time buyers.

It’s a good thing all those millennials (supposedly) just love the flexibility and simplicity of a lifetime in rental accommodation, then, because it looks like many of them will never have the option to be tied down by long-term wealth accumulation or stable home-ownership.

The World Economic Forum statement that by 2030 ‘You’ll own nothing. And you’ll be happy’ attracted a mix of scorn and paranoia. Conspiracists intimate that the pandemic has been deliberately introduced to trigger a shift to a neo-feudal, corporatist world order in the name of ‘climate change’.

This, it’s implied, would complete the hollowing-out of the middle class by expropriating what’s left of bourgeois opportunities and reduce the masses to the status of serfs at the mercy of a corporate oligarchy.

For while the WEF may view the shift toward renting as a positive change, stories percolating up from the ground suggests otherwise. A recent investigation in The Atlantic detailed what it’s like living in Wall Street owned housing. The promise was economies of scale on management, affordable rentals, and a stabilised market; reality was squalid, crumbling homes, poor maintenance and a money-gouging approach to repairs and security deposits.

While the idea of neo-feudalisation as a methodical project seems far-fetched, home ownership has traditionally been a means of wealth creation for the middle classes. This avenue is increasingly unavailable, with significant downstream effects. American millennials putting off kids are not the richest and poorest but the ones in the middle — those, in fact, now being priced out of home ownership in escalating numbers. I doubt this is a coincidence. Big Finance is accelerating the immiseration of America’s middle class.

And Lloyds Bank takes steps into UK real estate, this feudalisation of family housing is coming to Britain as well. Resisting this change is obvious policy for a conservative politics genuinely oriented toward the interests of the working and lower middle classes.

How (or if) our Tory government responds to this troubling new trend will tell us a great deal about whether politics actually is realigning. My fear is that we’ll discover Johnson-era Tories to be the same old plutocratic back-scratchers, just with a side order of anti-woke.

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  • They aren’t even that anti woke when you listen to BoZo after the G7 with his ‘build back better greener more gender-neutral but in a feminine way’ Woke gobbledegook at it’s finest all said while taking the knee to Creepy Joe

  • OK, some people are not comforted by memories, but don’t most of us have some of their identity attached to memories of their families and even their own past? I have not only my parents’ dining room furniture, but also my grandparents’ (expensively re-polished and upholstered); I have the piano my music teacher left to me (the Bluthner, not the Yamaha), I have various clocks and other things from an assortment of old uncles, aunts, and their uncles and aunts. I’m not the sum of these possessions, but at least they do remind me where I’m from.
    Also, I’m currently mulling over colour cards – if it’s your own home you’re free to re-paint, change curtains and carpets – it’s nice to be able to choose what to do, when you want to. Also, all the work that’s gone into the garden over the years, which can now be reaped – the figs, blueberries, lemons, strawberries etc. From what Mary writes, the young won’t have to fear dementia in old age, dementia will be their ‘lifestyle’.

  • None of this will of course apply to the patrons of the WEF or their families

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