The government recently published a white paper on housing. Out of curiosity, I searched the document for references to relationships: there is not one.
Why does this matter? Well, just as relationships are crucial emotional foundations in life, our homes provide the physical foundations that enable relationships to survive and thrive. Both of these great challenges for society – improving housing and promoting healthy relationships - are profoundly linked and policy should reflect this.
There is now a wide range of evidence about how the housing market – which the government acknowledges in the title of its white paper – is broken. There is also a growing move towards exploring how insecure, poor quality and unaffordable housing can bring challenges for families, relationships, health and wellbeing.
In December last year Relate published Happy Families, a report exploring the state of our family relationships today. Young adults aged 20 to 34 (the so-called ‘Boomerang Generation’) are more likely to be sharing a home with their parents than any time since 1996, and there were 3.3 million adults living with parents in 2015 – that’s 618,000 more than in 1996.
The report highlights research from Parentline Plus showing families with adult children living at home can experience tensions around the clash of different lifestyles, and this may have negative impacts on young adults’ wellbeing and self-esteem stemming from lost independence. The family home, with mum and dad just feet away, might not be the ideal setting for young love to flourish.
As we entered the New Year Relate experienced its traditional spike in calls from people wanting to make a change with a relationship – many wishing to end it entirely. One of the main reasons for stresses and strains in relationships, and for them coming to an end, is financial difficulties. Rising rents and a property ladder becoming ever harder to get on - and climb - is adding to these pressures.
The problems associated with housing extend far wider of course – from the thousands of families living in temporary accommodation to the retired couples looking for a home better suited to their medical needs. Concerns also exist about the poor condition of our housing, particularly in the private rented sector. Many people experiencing housing upheaval will be grappling with the consequences for their relationships with loved ones.
We all deserve somewhere safe and comfortable to live – a home for love and connection. As the government further develops its thinking and approach to improving the nation’s housing, I hope they consider how closely related good homes and good relationships are.
Let’s make these two issues part of the same conversation going forward.