If buying a house is a problem, try living in someone else's

I was inspired this week by a spirited conversation about Carson City housing prices during a focus group for the economic growth of the region.

At one corner of the symmetrically arranged tables were the two (young) economic consultants who were eager to convince those at the other corner (who were of the older generation) that affordable housing for the younger generation is important in a attracting a skilled work force.

It's not that these Carson City residents disagreed, I just don't believe they think it's possible with area housing starts as high as they are (The median Carson City home sold for $318,000 at year end, according to the Multiple Listing Service ). Is it possible for a small group of concerned residents to change housing prices?

Older professionals often get together and talk about why the young'ns aren't buying homes in their community. (These remember-when discourses often start "We were so much more responsible because..." promptly followed by any Gen Xer in the room (if any, though I doubt it) rolling his/her eyes.

This is how the discussion goes: young people don't like to settle down until after their 20s, they are having kids later, they switch jobs 10 times before they're 30, they're paying off debt, they welch off their parents for as long as possible.

As a Gen Xer, I have friends who would provide anecdotal evidence for each of these charges, but I will not betray my generation in doing so. Nor will I cite national studies that confirm these charges, nor hearken to any Time magazine cover story.

Back to this particular focus group meeting. As if to make a point, I was asked by a professional woman with great standing in the community: Do you own your own home, or rent? She knew the answer.

I've been a renter all my life (except for the part that depended on the parentals) but I do not live in an apartment. I scoff at living in an apartment, mostly because rent money lines the pockets of nameless owners living the good life off a-third of my monthly income. And because I don't own any furniture.

I live in a big house with the family who owns it. My rent goes to pay their mortgage. With my rather large debt, I doubt that I'll be qualifying for a home loan any time soon, but that doesn't mean I have to live in a box and stare at the walls. Rent in my house stays low because a small group of people share the cost of the mortgage.

Attention young professionals, here's your solution: Hook up with someone who can put their name on the mortgage. Someday that'll be you, and your friends can later become your renters. Why just practice this in college? I ask. Prolong the savings.

Of course, this method also comes with its own risks, and I'm going to name them, otherwise I'll get about 700 angry e-mails. Oops, actually I've already named them. Those in their 20s don't settle down, they switch jobs and often go unemployed for times, thus endangering the monthly mortgage payment. And, quite honestly, it's easier to yell at a relative for not doing the dishes. The relative has to stay. A friend may just get fed up with your incessant cleanliness (or vice versa) and move out with less than a week's notice.

Maybe this arrangement would force us to be better people. To share our toys. Communicate when something is wrong.

For all of you out there who rent apartments, know that I'm not being too radical. Just as the older professionals know that the younger generation will take 10 years to settle down, I know that there will always be a substantial number of people who would rather live in a box and pay rent until they die than solve a conflict or wash dishes.

• Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at bbosshart@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1212.


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