“Millennials don't want to buy baby boomers' sprawling, multi-bedroom homes,” read the headline at Insider in 2019. “Boomers are looking to downsize, but millennials aren’t interested in their huge houses.”
Children and family are less valuable to today’s 20- and 30-somethings, the article explained, who instead prioritize seeing the world and going out on the town.
Two years later, Insider revisited the same scene and found a different tale. “Boomers are only making the 2021 housing crisis worse” by not selling their “sprawling, multi-bedroom homes,” Insider explained. “If boomers don't move out of their homes to retire in line with their predecessors, the supply will just worsen.”
Now comes Chapter 3 of the generational war over big houses: What happens when the boomer finally sells one of these big suburban houses to a young person who proceeds to rent out the rooms to other young people?
Well, the government might just outlaw it.
The city government in Shawnee, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri, “received input and concerns from residents and City Council members regarding a relatively new trend where single family homes are being purchased and converted into rental units with multiple individual tenants,” according to a city document.
The city created two new categories of living arrangements, “co-living groups” and “group houses,” and made them illegal in residential neighborhoods.
(When Generation X was in college, every college town in America had a rumored law like this, but in the traditional telling, any house with more than three unrelated females was a brothel.)
The council says the specific problem is businesses that buy these big boomer four-bedroom homes, convert the living rooms into a fifth and sixth bedroom, and separately rent them out.
"We're by no means trying to eliminate roommates,” said Councilwoman Jill Chalfie. “It's just a situation of trying to limit it to no more than four people who are sharing a home.”
Nevertheless, the effect of the law is that you can’t have more than two roommates if none of you are related.
Who knows what round four of this housing war will be? Maybe Gen Z will take over city councils and start banning visits from the grandchildren.