Digs, supported by Hackney Unites, is calling for the end of the unregulated private rental market in Hackney and their aim is to take the issue all the way to central Government and across the whole of England.
Digs is made up of private renters offering information and support to other Hackney renters and they launched their first public meeting on Thursday 20 October 2012 at the hub of social change in Hackney – the CLR James Public Library.
This event provided the opportunity for Hackney’s tenants who currently live in private and largely unregulated housing to come together and engage with a strategy for change.
The momentum for change has been simmering for many years beginning with the loss of rent control in 1988. Back then rent prices were based on a formula linked loosely to average income. Today, rent costs are governed by ‘open market’ forces and this has led to rent increases that often outstrip the average working person’s income.
Another driver for change is the plethora of newly released reports by agencies either directly or indirectly linked to private housing and the need for London to have affordable rents. The number of working households claiming benefits has continued to rise since the recession began (2008). A report by National Housing Federation found that in May 2012, housing benefit claimant by those in work rose to 903,440 and that this has doubled since November 2008.
Not only are more people seeking financial support with their rents but private rents have also increased. This push to jack up the rents is linked to a range of factors – some are the byproduct of the recession and the contentious banking activities while others are for sheer profit.