The internet is full of funny discourses.
Sometimes it’s a long thread on Twitter on how badly fitted Katara and Aang were as a couple in the popular television series Avatar: The Last Airbender. Other times, it’s a fight that has broken out in the comment section of a Buzzfeed video on some trendy topics. One time, it’s a running joke on Millennials’ inability to purchase houses.
I consider myself a Millennial, though to be honest, maybe I’m more of a Gen Z or a Zoomer, as the internet likes to call people born in the 2000s. I was born in the year of 2000 and I’m stuck in the middle of two generations that are seemingly both inside and outside of the same spectrum. Nevertheless, I’ll put my foot down and say I’m a Millennial for now as I have no desire to eat tide pods and would rather be a plant mom with sustainable tote bags which is, according to a recent TikTok I watched, the branding of every Millennial on earth.
Being a Millennial means that there is a huge chance of me never owning my own place due to the poor economy and the lack of land and the high prices of houses. Even if I do manage to put a down payment on a house, it would likely take me decades to pay back the loans I would have to take to buy a house. It’s not an ideal situation, especially when compared to my parents’ and grandparents’ abilities to purchase their own homes at a much younger age.
This is something that I’m grappling with as I step into adulthood and start to think of leaving home. How am I going to be able to afford my own roof? I don’t want to rent houses and apartments and rooms in boarding houses forever. I need to start thinking of viable ways to own a house.
So, like any other good child of the internet, I search on Google: “Houses for Millennials” and the results are delightful. It’s all articles from economics magazines talking about how they predict that Millennials will buy the most real estate in this year of 2020. When I check the dates, I laugh. They certainly didn’t manage to predict a pandemic that has cost Millennials jobs and income.
One article though catches my attention. It’s from Vice and it reads “Sadly, the Pandemic Could Be Millennials’ Best Chance to Buy a House”. It details how prices on houses are dropping now more than ever and how this might be the only chance for Millennials to buy a property before the prices rise again. It then proceeds to give tips on how to jump into the housing market. To me, it’s obvious that the article only promotes a type of house only available to those lucky enough to maintain a stable income through this quarantine. Those who already have enough savings, to begin with, are those with no financial worry. I can’t help but frown because none of these articles, probably written by Baby Boomers, seem to offer us any viable options for housing.
So I close the Google tab and start to go through Instagram and Twitter because, at this point, everyone has been using their social media like it’s the newspaper and the Wikipedia at the same time. I look through the accounts I follow and try to piece together the most viable way for Millennials to own a house and it looks a lot like this: get a piece of land as far away from your place of employment or the heart of the city as possible, build a tiny house with the help of an architect who has been designing nothing but tiny houses for years, move in and never move out into a bigger house.
The only way for Millennials to own a house is if it’s a tiny house.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Tiny Houses. I spend my days watching Tiny House tours and I admire the idea. However, owning a tiny house means that one cannot have many things and one will certainly have to think twice about having kids and pets. We have to make sacrifices and pick what’s more important to us in order to own our own houses. It’s a pick-and-choose situation but when I think about it, it really seems to be the only option. Other options simply give us ownership over a home, not a house that sits on land that we also own. And when it comes to having a place of our own to live in, owning the land in which your house sits on will always be a much better comfort.
Sure, Millennials can buy apartments. The pros of this are that you get fairly nice facilities such as but not limited to a swimming pool, a park or a garden, a playground area, a parking lot, a gym, an in-building minimart, a receptionist to receive all of your spontaneous online purchases of ridiculously expensive but pretty items. It’s all great perks but then there are also the cons: you don’t own the land, apartments can be quite small, some apartments do not allow you to have pets such as dogs and cats, you only get one parking space. Overall, apartments are a great option but again, it’s not for every Millennial. Especially not for a Millennial that adamantly wants to buy a house.
This drives me to another question. Why do we put so much value into a house? Why is the ownership of a house the ultimate goal? In the end, it all circles back to elementary school lessons on what a human’s basic needs are. In Bahasa Indonesia, they are sandang (clothes), pangan (food), and papan (house). A house is essentially seen as a human’s basic need, something that people have to have to live. This is what is taught and ingrained into our minds, this is why we are so hyperfixated on the idea of owning a building. We were taught that it’s what we have to have, the same way we were taught that a healthy diet has to consist of milk, vegetables, protein, and carbohydrate. And yet, this teaching is probably one of the most hypocritical lessons ever because if a human’s basic needs consist of all those things, why are there people who are denied their basic needs? Why does the government not provide free housing for homeless people? Why is rent expensive? Why must we go through so many loops and hassle in order to own a house? If a house really is a basic need then shouldn’t Millennials be able to buy them easily? Shouldn’t people be given the means to own a property then?
In the end, Millennials’ inability to buy a house is often insinuated as our own lack of resources, how we’re not money-savvy, how we eat too many avocado toasts, and drink too many overpriced lattes. Relatives from the older generation tell us that we simply need to save money and apply for the necessary bank loans, forgetting that the systems used by banks today are way different than the way it was decades ago, and that property prices aren’t as cheap as they were even five years ago. They forget that these inflations and hoops we have to go through are not our faults. It’s a system that they help create as the older generation. The high prices plastered on houses are an inheritance. We are unable to afford a house because of the system and the way the real estate industry works. We are unable to buy a house because our jobs don’t pay us enough and bank loans are harder to get today.
The houses that are available to us make us have to sacrifice things from the traditional way of living, such as havings to lifestyles—such as maximalist lifestyles and hobbies of collecting things—to personal joys such as having a pet to come home to.
Houses for Millennials seem like a faraway dream that maybe we can only achieve in the distant future, decades from now, closer to a ¾ life crisis. For now, all I can do is draw up plans for what I want my house to look like and what the interior should be. For now, all I can do is laugh at the articles on Millennials’ real estate habits and reply to Twitter threads on the matter whilst sipping the tea that I bought from an artisan coffee shop for fifty thousand rupiahs. For now, I can just simply enjoy the renting days ahead of my life and just buy a house when I’m in my fifties.