From an early age, individuals of most societies are given goals and recipes for their lives; steps to follow in order to respond to the set definitions for happiness, completeness, and a fulfilled life. Finding a partner, buying a house, and having kids are among those objectives that one needs to achieve in order to obtain the good citizen card.

In the House of My Father, 1996–7 by Donald Rodney.

In the House of My Father, 1996–7 by Donald Rodney.

The idea of homeownership in particular became very popular after the Great Depression, and it was sold as a life jacket to any future crisis. Indeed, this idea was rooted so firmly into the foundations of Western society that owning a house was for a long time the synonym of a person who had succeeded in life. The ideal of homeownership gave people the security that the system was working properly, and so one’s contribution to make sure the order was maintained was to finish paying the mortgage. However, this dynamic was challenged during the last housing crisis, and it made younger generations wonder whether being handcuffed to a mortgage for up to 50 years was worth it anymore.

Millennials are known to be nonconformist and dissatisfied by nature and this is probably what makes this generation so great. They are constant seeking progress and improvement; they strive to find new ways of satisfying their needs. Millennials grew up in a context of recession where old-fashioned discourses told them they could have the world. Therefore, their ambition and endless discontent is not entirely their fault. However, these new dynamics have had an effect on previous value systems that might still linger today, and it is forcing us to reimagine the concept of home and our relationship with it. One thing is crystal clear: millennials can’t cope with our current fast, high-priced housing market, and so they find more financial freedom in renting.

Private Bunker Homes series by Carsten Güth.

Private Bunker Homes series by Carsten Güth.

This new scenario has extended the idea of individualism. Indeed, this context has forced the youth to rethink the benefits of contributing to the financial order that sustains the society. It seems more logical to live to the fullest on a daily basis instead of investing one’s little savings in an overpriced property just for the sake of maintaining the financial status quo. Actually, paying for a house may represent a burden in the long term should your economic situation changes. Therefore, the idea of homeownership does not make sense to a generation whose jobs are penurious and not always guaranteed.

A house used to be a place of “me,” of “us;” a place where people could make sense of their existence as a part of something bigger. A home used to be a symbol of one’s position within society and their contribution to it. New generations don’t feel that kind of bond with properties anymore, and consequently try to find the “me” and “us” in the simple things that can be enjoyed daily. This is why new generations seem to be passionate about everything and nothing at the same time.

We Want Decent Housing. Photo source: Black Panther Party archive.

We Want Decent Housing. Photo source: Black Panther Party archive.

All these new values have made the notion of citizenship more inclusive and universal, but at the same time blurrier and ephemeral, enlarging inequality gaps at various levels. In the recent past, owning a house automatically granted anyone the good citizenship card. However, this growing adversity to the concept of ownership and the need to find new ways of reassuring one’s place within society is compelling new generations to redefine the concept of citizenry, but it simultaneously opens a wide space to be filled with emerging social roles, misunderstanding, and prejudice. In this context, we are looking at a necessary reconsideration of larger issues surrounding displacement, mobility, and domesticity, all with important ramifications for the interconnectedness of the public and private sphere.

Words: Sergio Lopez

Copy edited by Elena Stanciu