Every Londoner has something they love and hate about the capital. I’m at my happiest cycling around Richmond Park on a sunny day, yet can’t stand the Northern line on a Monday morning.
We ran a campaign earlier this year asking Londoners to share their views on private renting with the Mayor. More than 5,000 renters got involved, and they had a lot to say. The message was clear that London’s renters are united in their annoyance, anger and frustration at the state of the capital’s housing situation.
Tonight the Evening Standard are hosting a debate on this crucial issue, which presents a much needed opportunity to talk frankly about what needs to change. Based on the evidence gathered from our supporters, here are the three areas we think the panel should focus on:
With house prices doubling in the last ten years in the capital, home ownership has been pushed out of reach for thousands of Londoners. At the same time, the number of Londoners on the social housing waiting list has escalated. The result? The number of private renters in the capital has increased by 62% in the last decade.
And this isn’t because private renting is any cheaper: private rents have risen faster than wages over the past few years, meaning huge swathes of London are now completely unaffordable. Of the 5,000 people who responded to our survey, 1 in 5 were paying more than 60% or more of their take-home pay on rent.
Private renters are ten times more likely to move than those who own a home. This affects everyone in the capital. Communities can’t develop properly as no-one is around long enough; children can’t get the education they need as they’re continually being forced to move schools; and this way of living costs the tax payer money too: an estimated £100 million a year for London councils according to the LSE (PDF).
But when a quarter of a city’s housing is based on the premise that you’ll only be offered a 6 – 12 month contract with a 2 month notice period, it’s to be expected. We need to find ways to increase the stability for renters in the capital. And this was a point made loud and clear by our survey respondents. Two thirds of them wanted the option of longer term tenancies and 8 in 10 wanted to have more warning of rent increases.
We can’t talk about renting without mentioning rogue landlords. Complaints about bad landlords have risen by almost 50% in the past four years, faster than the increase in the number of Londoners renting. The respondents to our survey told us they want more done to tackle this. 9 in 10 said they think every rented home should meet the Government’s minimum standards for a decent home, and the same amount called for more to be done to tackle rogue landlords:
These are the priorities for our supporters and Shelter in this debate. And it’s not been easy to pick just three. Changes to housing benefits, and the bedroom tax are just a few of the many other issues that will have an enormous impact on Londoners over the next year.
But we’ve focused on the areas where we know the Mayor can make a difference.