But Houseboats Only Ever Depreciate in Value

It hasn’t gone unnoticed that millenials buy homes with less frequency, and are more likely to rent, than Gen-Xers, Baby Boomers, and whatever idiot nicknames were given to earlier generations. There’s also been much made of how our generation is more likely to work in the “gig economy,” short-term, inconsistent freelance work, rather than settle into positions of long-term full-time employment. In all honesty, I don’t read most articles on these subjects. Not fully. At most, I’ll skim them until I get angry, then stop.

This is the product of that simmering anger.

Some commentators get it right, detail what are in my estimation the accurate and true reasons for why our generation disproportionately rents property rather than buys, and do not work long-term in single full-time jobs. But there is a dearth of commentary which posits the infuriating notion that millenials, a generation that seems to roughly encompass near three decades, choose not to be homeowners, that it is our preference to rent instead of buy, and to work part-time freelance jobs or gigs. While I don’t yet have the readership to pretend that I speak for everyone, I believe I am right in saying that to most of my age bracket, this claim is an insulting pile of bullshit.

The idea that we are a generation of free-spirited Peter Pan types who want to go through life without being bound by commitments, to have the “freedom” to move from place to place, bouncing from one short-lived job to another is not the case, or it is not that of the majority.

First of all, the “gig economy” is a product of exploitative unregulated capitalism at its (almost) worst. (Almost, because the worst product of capitalism, as exemplified in this nation and its foundational colonies, was/is literal slavery.) It is a small number of people who’re working for Uber or any other such company because it is what they really want to be doing. And while I’ve known many people working multiple part-time jobs, it has never been something that they or anyone would choose, let alone be happy to do.

Well-paying full-time jobs are in short supply. Labor unions, long beloved and relied upon in this nation as a protective measure against the insatiable greed of capitalist business owners running fully amok, have been decimated. It is now only a minority of workers in the US that have the security of being represented by a union. Not that a union gets you everything. But what many people fail to remember, or failed to learn to begin with, is the nature of work in the United States prior to popular labor movements of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. For most of US history, workers had little or no rights. It was for employers to do whatsoever they pleased with them. Workers could be forced to put in sixteen hour days for less than a living wage, have their pay withheld, be verbally and physically assaulted, even die on the job with zero compensation for their loved ones. When workers did organize, they were fired en masse. If they tried to strike, they risked being slaughtered by police and national guardsmen.

While it may not yet be time to sound the alarm that we’re creeping back to the bad old days of the Industrial Revolution and before, it is something to watch out for and work to ensure against.

Homeownership:

Without making a decent and reliable income, how the fuck is anyone supposed to buy a house? How is anyone with thousands of dollars in debt thanks to extortionist colleges and student loan businesses supposed to get a loan to put down a deposit on a house, let alone pay it back. And how can anyone but Silicon Valley-type douches ever hope, under these circumstances, to own a home?

Candidly, I’m in a better position than many of my generation. While far from being a wunderkind, or super-successful Silicon Valley douche, I’m doing alright. I’m among the relative minority of my demographic to have a decent paying full-time job with benefits. Thanks to going to a relatively inexpensive college, being helped by scholarships, two employed college-graduate parents, a pretty frugal lifestyle (once kicking my costly drug habit), and white American male privilege, my student debts were paid off and I’d gotten my current job not long before thirty.

However, I do not own a house. I own zero property.

I want very much to own a house.

That is not possible where I live, with my salary.

Here’s the thing:

To own property anywhere near where I live and work, you’d have to put down a million dollars, give or take. Probably more. About half my pay goes to paying rent for a very small apartment. If I scrape, I can save maybe $10,000 a year. With that trajectory, even with a minimalist monk lifestyle, I would not be able to own a house within a hundred miles of my neighborhood for another hundred years.

But, with any luck, earthquakes and rising sea levels will have taken the whole of the Bay area into the ocean by that point, so property values should drop enough for me to get a decent houseboat.