Archive | November 2014

# 51 (2014) Living In Boxes

There’s a reason I live so far north. And it has a lot to do with articles like this. It’s also why I’ve spent most of the last 6 years living in various house shares. As a sole business owner, things have been very up and down. And renting my own property has been nothing but a pipedream. Even now that things have settled and I have some kind of guaranteed income I still can’t afford the basics in life, like somewhere to work and somewhere to live.

I’ve opted between renting my own flat and working from home, and getting the cheapest house share I can afford and finding a studio so I don’t have to live with my work. But whichever way I look at it, I still can’t make ends meet. And it’s because things are so expensive, not because I earn so little.

As I reluctantly extended the notice on my current houseshare this week, I have been thinking about how our economy and the way we live has shaped the bizarre manner in which we coexist today.

More and more of us are living single, or choosing not to live with partners. A lot of this is because of the disjointed way in which we exist, that social norms don’t dictate marriage or settling down. And I suspect that many of the couples living together are only doing so because it enables them to afford a place of their own. After all, living with a partner, with all their quirks, has to be better than living with a selection of total strangers, right? Right!

But that doesn’t stop many of us becoming trapped in properties we’re not happy with. Awkward situations, no privacy and people with varying degrees of cleanliness are just the tip of the iceberg. One of the problems with a houseshare is that landlords want professionals with full time jobs but implement teenager rules upon them. No music, noone allowed to stay over. Rarely any social space in which to invite friends. I checked out one houseshare which was going to charge me £5 for every night my boyfrienbd stayed over. And what if your other half also lives in a houseshare with similar rules? Where do you go? Book a hotel room, use a park? Be platonic?

The house share situation has largely come about because the cost of living and housing costs are rising but wages aren’t. Thus houses are largely inaccessible for single incomes and too expensive for one person to run. Add to that the swelling of student numbers in most large towns and cities all craving independent living without the independent price tag and we’re all set up for a fall.

Landlords saw pound signs in front of their eyes. Cramming virtual strangers into bedrooms with minimal social areas is an easy way to make a quick buck and pay for that retirement home. It draws people together who ordinarily would never have met, have nothing in common and invariably leave with the same attitude. None of my house shares have been particularly great experiences. From people with the house cleaning skills of your pet cat, to the downright antisocial and frankly frightening.

I am hoping desperately that relocation will mean I don’t have to go down that depressing route again but I’m not hopeful. For the same price as I am paying to live in houseshares, I could enjoy a 2 bedroom house with my partner, and not feel socially awkward, threatened or ‘in the way’. But what if you don’t want to live with a partner, or you know that prelonged close proximity will only ruin your relationship? What if you just like your own company? Then more fool you because you’re never going to get it.

Where I live now we’ve been waiting 5 months for our wifi to be upgraded. The boiler has been leaking for 2 months, we fixed the kitchen tap ourselves and we’ve dealt with some of the niggling problems with the bathroom such as no practical shower curtain and slugs making their way in under the bath. And I pay £360 a month for this?

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