‘Generation Rent’: Why Young Adults Won’t Buy Homes

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“I will never live in the suburbs.”

Jaclyn King, a 28-year old from Denver, Colorado, tells the Associated Press that she plans to keep living—and renting—in the city of Denver for a long time to come.

Jaclyn is a member of the Gen Y, adults born between 1975 and 1995. But as Gen Y grows older, it’s transforming and taking on a new name: “Generation Rent.”

According to 2011 census results, city populations are booming, as are the number of young people (i.e. Generation Rent) who are choosing to rent in cities rather than buy homes in the suburbs. As reported by the AP, “City growth in 2011 surpassed or equaled that of suburbs in roughly 33 of the nation’s 51 largest metro areas, compared to just five in the last decade.”

Renting certainly comes with fewer attachments than buying. But the reasons why Generation Rent members are choosing to rent rather than buy are far more serious than they may appear.

The Associated Press explains: Generation Rent members are “burdened with college debt or toiling in temporary, lower-wage positions.” A home is a purchase laden with responsibilities and long-term commitment, and for many young people with mountains of school-related debt, adding new loans to the mix isn’t a feasible option.

The 2011 census results are additional symptoms of what we’ve called the “20-Something Crunch”—a crunch that combines high debt and low employment. In the case of the 2011 census, that crunch is packaged and on display in cities across the country.

As NPR says: “Most lenders now require a rock-steady source of income and a substantial down payment before they will even look at potential borrowers.” It’s a “steep threshold” that members of Generation Rent can’t or won’t face any time soon.

Urban plans are shifting in response to the census stats. Members of Generation Rent cite the importance of rentals near transportation hubs, cheap food and entertainment locales. Businesses are answering to these needs accordingly: “Communities need to prepare,” says the AP.

In the meantime, homebuilders are also trying to lure members of Generation Rent away from the rental market. For example, one home-building company with operations in San Antonio, Chicago and St. Louis has come up with a series of tech- and budget-friendly housing options for young people who are tired of renting.

These recent stats have got us wondering once again: “Since When Is Gen Y the ‘New Poverty Class?’