Millennial-bashing is the favorite sport of baby boomer journalists and bloggers. They're blamed for everything from the decline of marmalade ("it’s full of bits") to the housing shortage (they can’t afford houses, so the builders are going after rich boomers).
But here's something new: a rich millennial bashing his peers for not being rich — because they spend too much money on avocado toast. Here's what 35-year-old Australian property developer Tim Gurner has to say:
When I was trying to buy my first home, I wasn't buying smashed avocado for $19 and four coffees at $4 each. We're at a point now where the expectations of younger people are very, very high. They want to eat out every day, they want travel to Europe every year. The people that own homes today worked very, very hard for it (and) saved every dollar, did everything they could to get up the property investment ladder.
One critic at MoreNeighbors, a site promoting affordable housing, notes:
This analysis ignores some other things preventing millennials from finding an affordable places to live: lack of housing supply, which leads to higher prices and rents; low wages; health care costs; and decreased desire to live in the suburbs where housing is cheaper. Not in fact, daily budgeting habits.
So many trends work together to make life harder for young people than it was for their parents. Wages have been stagnant, manufacturing jobs have been shipped overseas, unions have been busted, housing prices have exploded in the cities where there are jobs, student loans are a huge burden.
When I bought my first house at 29 years old, it cost three times my annual salary earned working as an architect, and it had a downpayment of $20,000, which I borrowed from my dad. It was in what is now one of the trendiest parts of town and the average house there now sells for $3 million. This isn’t Avocado Toast; it's a real estate crisis caused by inequality. As professor Richard Florida notes,
As the affluent and advantaged return to cities, they colonize the best locations – in and around the urban centre, around transit, close to knowledge institutions and around amenities like parks and waterfronts, while the less advantaged are pushed out into the further reaches of the suburbs and exurbs or the disconnected and disadvantaged areas of the city.
Yet while real estate prices skyrocket, wages in many professions have not gone up at the same pace; I doubt an architect two years out of university earns much more today than I did 35 years ago; they are just not needed anymore. I once spent a month drawing the same damn window on an apartment building facade over and over and over; this is now copied and pasted in five minutes. This isn’t Avocado Toast; it's technological change.
And while jobs get harder to find and pay less than they used to with far less job security, the cost of tuition (and the burden of student loans) has exploded. This isn’t Avocado Toast; this is government declining to invest in the next generation’s education like they did for the last two generations. (My tuition at the University of Toronto School of Architecture was $600 per year.)
Finally, the worst problem millennials have to face is the electoral power of the baby boomers and their determination to keep things the way they are — or actually, the way they used to be. After the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom (where millennials could have carried it had they come out and voted) I wrote what I thought was a warning to millennials about the upcoming American election. This isn’t Avocado Toast; it’s intergenerational warfare.
What happened in the U.K. was in fact a preview of what might happen in the American election: the complete surprise shocker revolution of the older generations, the boomers and seniors, rejecting the changes that have happened in their respective countries in the last decade. It's not a fight to retain the status quo; it's an attempt to turn back the clock, to make things the way they were.
And as I predicted, the millennials did not show up in anything like the numbers the boomers and seniors did, and the current government is doing everything in its power to turn back the clock, to reduce taxes on the rich baby boomers, to remove regulations that protect the environment for generations young and yet to come, so that extractors and developers can make money now. This isn’t Avocado Toast; it's a war on the future.
The only consolation one can offer to the millennial generation is that while the boomers and the seniors are winning the battles right now, they ultimately cannot win the war against demographic change. For their sake, I hope there's something left.