Generation-rent sometimes has to look for other ways of getting a roof over their head.
First-time buyers have had some positive news recently, that could help many get their foot on the property ladder. But while stamp duty relief and mortgage changes are great for those who have a sizable deposit, it’s not exactly going to suddenly make housing across the land affordable for millennials and gen z.
As always, London provides a stark example of where we’re at. The average house price in the UK capital is £666,264, according to property website Zoopla, whilst the average salary is £37k, according to payscale. Both figures are way above the national averages (£231, 855 and £29,009) but even nationally, it’s not easy to buy a home, at least in the traditional way.
What is alternative living?
Alternative living means finding a home for yourself in a place that many wouldn’t consider ‘the norm’.
More and more people are turning to alternative lifestyles that allow them to have some autonomy over their living situation — no more landlords, horrible carpets and no nails rules — whilst still not bankrupting themselves in the process. More and more people are turning to ‘alternative living’ solutions in order to build their own little space in the world. There are as many different ways to live as there are people, and whatever way you choose to build a home is as valid and full of potential as anyone else’s. Here are a couple of the different options being explored today, from tiny homes to alternative living communities.
Communes are hardly a new concept. In fact, communal living is as old as human existence. But, it is a growing alternative lifestyle choice seen in many parts of the world today. Some sources estimate there are 24,000 beds in existence as part of co-living communities across the whole of Europe. Communes are generally seen to be quite inclusive and they foster a sense of personal responsibility to the group: everyone has their part to play in the way the commune functions and everyone must pull their weight in order to make sure that everything is fair and running smoothly.
Acts of service are a really good way of keeping a balanced sense of wellbeing and so the mental health of commune members is generally thought to be consistently good: social interaction and the good feeling you get from helping others are key players for good vibes. Communes also mean that it is possible for members to play to their strengths making everyone important and indispensable to the group.
Tiny homes and Mobile living
The Tiny House Movement is not only very very cute, but it is also intended to be a step toward sustainability and affordability. Basically, it means building small dwellings which encourage a shift away from a consumerist lifestyle because there is nowhere to put all your impulse purchases, meaning that you keep only what you really need or that brings you joy.
These alternative homes also encourage a sense of community because they can be constructed in a way that makes miniature neighbourhoods possible and they can be built in the old fashioned ‘barn raising’ style. The movement is most prevalent in America but it has migrated to European shores too, notably in Sweden, (capital of flat pack everything including homes) and here in the UK where Tiny Eco Homes UK make and sell houses for as little as £26,000.
Similar to the tiny home movement is the trend for mobile homes. The Tumbleweed Tiny House Company specialises in mobile tiny houses on wheels. But, the original tiny house, the cara/campervan is a viable and attractive housing choice for many people today. One reason is that life in a mobile home provides a level of freedom otherwise not available for most people. The chance to pick up and move at the drop of a hat and to see so many new landscapes is irresistible to lots of people, but it comes with its own pitfalls that need to be considered such as water supply, waste management, electricity and wifi. But there is no doubt that it is a more affordable and freeing alternative housing option.
Like cara/campervans but of course, restricted to waterways, narrow boats are an aquatic option for alternative living. They are romantic and cosy and unlike a van, it’s possible to have woodburners and rooftop gardens in a narrow boat, however they can rack up some expensive mooring fees and if the river freezes then you are well and truly stuck. Nevertheless, boats are actually a brilliant way to put down roots, or to drop an anchor, in a city that you might otherwise be priced out of. Mooring fees in London, Bristol etc are expensive but not as expensive as bricks and mortar. Aswell, narrow boats are a brilliant way to meet new people with similar interests: opening and closing locks takes a long time and it is much more pleasant if you chat to your transient neighbours during the process!
And this old classic. It’s worth mentioning that, of course, for lots of people this isn’t a choice and it might not feel very alternative either. But with a bit of reframing, actually, living with parents is a really nice way to reconnect with your family, and can serve as a perfectly viable alternative living option for many.
It seems radical to choose to move home with parents, but it needn’t be: think about what you want and need from a living situation and base your choices on that, rather than societal expectations. Life with parents can be very nurturing, and if you need to take the heat off for 6 months, then it can be a very attractive option.
There are many more alternative living options: forest camping, lodging, property guardianship, converted shipping containers… the list goes on. All these choices go to show that there are so many other ways to build a life than just saving for a deposit and getting tied into a mortgage for 30+ years.