London rents are out of control – it’s becoming harder to afford to live

  • london
  • January 13, 2023
  • Comments Off on London rents are out of control – it’s becoming harder to afford to live

My inbox is inundated with frightened constituents emailing to tell me how they are being impacted by the cost-of-living crisis. 

But one issue stands out – those who say that quite simply, they can’t afford to live in their homes anymore. 

We are facing a rent crisis in this country and this Government seems to be turning a blind eye.  

As inflation hits the highest rate since the 1980s, food prices soar and energy bills begin to rise again, the last thing people need is rent increases on top of that. 

Yet, this is the situation for millions of people across the UK who rent from private landlords, as private rents are now rising at the fastest rate for seven years.  

They went up by 4% last year, with renters now paying on average 24% of their weekly expenditure on housing, compared to the 16% those with a mortgage pay. And brokers predict that UK rents will rise by an average of 13% over the next year. 

This increase will be simply unaffordable for so many people and I am deeply worried for my constituents in Brent.  

When you take into consideration the extra money those on low incomes pay in prepayment metres, travel, food, people are just about surviving.  

They’re facing agonising choices, between heating and eating, as wages are simply not enough to cope with rising costs. 

Real wages in the UK are forecast to shrink by 6.2% over the next two years, as if it wasn’t bad enough already.  

The truth is, the cost of rent is often extortionate. 

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There are, of course, many fair private landlords who charge reasonable prices and are responsible; I know some myself. We cannot tar them all with the same brush, but we also can’t pretend there aren’t some who are exploiting the system. 

I know of multiple people sharing beds in a single room. It sounds unbelievable but it is true: a day shift and night shift worker. 

What sometimes breaks me and my team is when we have older constituents who come to me homeless, or having to flat share. 

In your 20s it can almost be an adventure to share, but in your 40s and 50s it is a different story. Some, mainly men, if they are lucky, are able to move back in with their parents.  

These are all problems caused by lack of housing. 

Official statistics show a considerable decline in home ownership in recent years, which can also drive up rent prices.  

And there seems to be a clear mismatch between what people are paying and what they are getting. I hear many accounts of disrepair, mould, damp, overcrowding and maintenance issues, which either take too long to fix or are ignored – despite rising rents.  

Councils do all they can to step in and regulate the private system, however the scarcity of housing has created a buyer’s market, often leaving people afraid of reporting issues, for fear of being evicted or having their rent increased. 

It makes me wonder what sort of society the Conservatives are creating. One in which people can only hope to survive, but not really enjoy living? 

People deserve a safe, warm, liveable, and affordable place to live. No-one should have to move miles away from where they are from just so they can afford a decent house or flat. The Government could, and should, take action to solve these problems.  

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, called for the Government to introduce a two-year private sector rent freeze, and has repeatedly called on ministers to grant him powers to freeze private rents in London.  

And I’m pleased that my party, Labour, has pledged to introduce a new Renters’ Charter in the first 100 days of our Government. 

It will give more rights to tenants, including a legally-binding decent homes standard, end automatic evictions for rent arrears and abolish no-fault evictions, plus much more. 

As chair of the London group of Labour MPs, I’m looking carefully into housing issues in London and I believe there should be a greater role for credit unions, as they are for many an easier and more ethical way of banking.  

So many people cannot afford to buy due to the cost of deposits, or because they cannot get a mortgage. This is often despite the fact their monthly rent is more expensive than what mortgage payments would be!  

Credit unions, which are not-for-profit cooperatives operated for their members, can help people get on the housing ladder in a fair and ethical way by offering less-onerous deposit terms without needing to create value for shareholders; another way to help fix this broken system. 

I also want to see more first-time buyer initiatives which provide a stepping stone to make it easier to buy your own property. It is not right that young people see no hope of buying their own home, particularly in the capital. 

It sometimes makes young people feel like they cannot lay down roots; it dampens aspiration and turns talent away from London.  

One thing the Government could immediately do is follow through on their proposed ban on no-fault evictions, which the Labour Party and housing campaigners have long called on them to do. 

All of these measures and more would relieve pressure on people struggling with the costs of rent, but the Government is refusing to take action to support the most vulnerable in society.  

It is part of a running theme of successive Tory governments where, it seems to me, the vulnerable are ignored, profit comes before people, and they look after their rich mates first.  

That’s why we need a Labour Government, and quickly, so we can fix the rental crisis, before it is too late. 

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