For young people, housing issues are viewed as a rite of passage. About why?

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Melis Layik has a new place to stay after a tough year in which she felt her home was a trap.

She is part of a generation of young Australians influenced by Covid’s life.

Name: Layik Melis
Age: 21 Age: 21
Dreams of becoming a lawyer, writer and activist for the grassroots

I’m sitting in my new home, surrounded by boxes, staring at the tape and bubble wrap remnants scattered on the carpet.

When I last wrote a few weeks ago, I have moved.

Ok, I’ve got a table, but no seats. The box of miscellaneous curiosities, full of art projects that I promise one day I’ll complete, looks back at me.

It’s a mess, but that means a fresh beginning.

I feel a sense of warmth and ease as I look around my glorious pile of knickknacks and drink coffee from a cereal bowl that I haven’t had in my house in a long time.

The large decline in rent rates in Melbourne is one silver lining of Covid-19.

This means that I can afford to live on my own in a tidy, convenient, central apartment building for the first time.

Even, it’s not easy or inexpensive.

After losing my three jobs this year, I still do not have a job, so rent eats up all of my youth allowance money.

To cover other costs, I obtain money from my parents.

It’s taken a while for me to get here.

In my price range, I visited several depressing locations. Owing to the lack of visitors, most of the properties I was shown were hotel rooms that had been transformed into apartments.

They were often followed by kicked-in walls, bizarre smells, and falling apart furnishings.

Some had windows directly facing concrete walls, or worse, no windows whatsoever.

What can be passed off as living room is remarkable.

It should not be a privilege to live in a comfortable space, but what I was offered indicated that it was.

As soon as the Melbourne lockout was lifted, I had to step out.

Since the home became a place of pain, isolation, and fear during the lockdown. I imagined when I signed the lease for my apartment that most of the time I would be outside, busy with college, work, and friends.

Little did I know that it would end up feeling like a cage with this cramped box. I started to feel like I was suffocating as the constraints tightened.

With headphones in my ears, I ended up locking myself in my room for six months.

In my apartment, I felt alone.

It’s been debilitating.

I felt desperate to get out there.

Before, I tried to get out of the deal, but real estate agents do not have much understanding of a 21-year-old tenant’s problems.

In order to satisfy my lease commitments, I spent weeks looking for a replacement. The whole scenario felt really disempowering.

Precariousness when it comes to housing is not an unusual feeling for me.

I have lived in several cash housing situations where landlords did not fix broken fixtures and kept my security deposit.

My study of real estate law has come in handy, and each time I have successfully appealed to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal and gotten my deposit back.

But most young people don’t know what their rights are as tenants and how to enforce them.

This is frustrating because housing struggles are marketed as problems that young people are supposed to experience. We’re “supposed” to live in crappy shared apartments and cramped dorms.

It’s promoted to us as a rite of passage.

But why, really? Don’t we deserve a normal quality of life? We can’t count on real estate agents and landlords because the balance of power is skewed from the start.

Given our lack of social and financial capital, I believe that young people need special protection from this kind of exploitation, including the expansion of social housing.

For now, however, as I sit here, I feel comforted by the comfort of my new home. The hope I have longed for is blossoming.

The past year has been stressful and tumultuous, but I feel humbled by the stagnation.

I have a good feeling about 2021.

I hope it will bring us joy and connection.

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