Young life: Being forced out of my home left me in shock
Listen to this article
Subscribe to the Prospect Lives podcast
A few months ago, my flatmate Jen and I were told that our flat was going to be sold. I say our flat—it’s not ours in the sense that we actually own it—but these are our shoes in a heap in the hallway, our plates dripping on the drying rack, our plants sprawling from every windowsill.
When I found out that we’d have to leave I felt shock, as it happened so suddenly; stress, as we had just two months to find somewhere else to live; and anger, as it shouldn’t be as hard as it is to find secure housing. I also felt sadness, because this flat is our home, and I—naively, maybe—hadn’t expected to leave like this.
In the winter of 2020, I moved back to Leeds into a one-bed basement flat that was damp and dingy, but where the rent was cheap. I put up with it for a few months before deciding to move in with my friend Jen. The first few flats we viewed were… habitable (just). One had black mould all over the bathroom. Another had no furniture in the living room (despite the property being listed as “furnished”). In a third—lived in by two single men—both the bedrooms smelled of stale sweat.
Then, we viewed our flat. There was no mould and it didn’t smell like body odour or greasy food. Light poured into the living room, where the south-facing wall was essentially one big window. I got ahead of myself: noticing small hooks on the walls and imagining what my prints would look like up there; trying to figure out where my behemothic cheese plant would fit. We signed for it immediately.
Jen and I set to work as soon as we moved in—shifting the sofa this way and that, hoovering the remains of the previous tenants’ hair out of the carpet. Jen smothered the characterless, black leather sofa with her primary-coloured cushions. My cheese plant went into a corner where it could unfurl its new leaves in peace. Looking around, once everything was in its place, I imagined I would stay for years.
That all seems so long ago now. We’ve been here for a year and a half, and know the flat’s secrets and quirks: like how the toilet sometimes makes a weird noise when the shower is on. There’s a palimpsest of memories in every room. Here’s the sofa where I sat to eat my birthday cake, where I watched Ekin-Su and Davide win Love Island, where I learned about the Queen’s death. Here’s the bed where I sweated out a fever, where I’ve had sleepovers with old friends, where I had far too many sertraline nightmares. Here’s the desk where I started my new job, the balcony where I read Annie Lord’s Notes on Heartbreak, the windowsill where I grew a basil plant from seed.
I don’t yearn to own my own place, but I do think the current housing system is broken—it’s ludicrous that one in three millennials will never own a home, when so many want to. What I would really like, though, is more robust rights for renters: regulating the sector, making sure that we can’t be evicted so easily, controlling rents and forcing landlords to look after their tenants properly.
Jen and I have found a new flat now, and I’m sure we’ll fill the rooms with happy memories once more. I only hope that when we leave this new place, it will be on our own terms.
The post Young life: Being forced out of my home left me in shock appeared first on Prospect Magazine.