As home ownership becomes a vanishing rarity among under 35s, the face of our cities will change. The result will be an ever more peripatetic, mobile and insecure young adult population – compelled to move home more regularly, at the whims of an increasingly muscular landlord class, to areas that are cheaper and less well connected.
To an extent, perhaps this dispersal of young energy will fit with some of the demands of the city of 2025 – as we move towards what Zaha Hadid has called a “polycentric metropolis”; towards a more complex and dynamic city with overlapping centres of housing, business and leisure. Brownfield sites will be developed (bad news for the scrap metal collectors and fly-tippers of the future), density will increase in underpopulated areas, previously maligned backwaters will be blessed with their own cereal cafes and artisan bakeries.
The trend in new-build housing developments at the moment is for substantial integration of leisure, commerce and residential use, with on-site gyms, shops and bars – of course, most of these innovations are for expensive luxury flats, well out of reach of the average young private renter.
Greater public transport coverage can help open up areas previously cut off from employment and services – but new infrastructure takes decades and billions of pounds; more likely, young people will commute further, and the experience will be more crowded and unpleasant.