More people in England have no choice but to rent

New data has been published from last year’s Census – and it shows that whether we want to be paying rent to a landlord or not, private tenants are a growing force.

Across England, two thirds more households are renting privately than at the previous census, 10 years ago, and every London borough has a bigger proportion of households renting privately than it did back then.

In London, half of the boroughs show a greater rise in private rented households than the 62% English average, and half below – just what you’d expect, so it’s not just a London ting.

Every London borough showed a rise in the proportion of households renting. Most of the boroughs showed a rise within 18% of the national average rise, but in Barking and Dagenham, Enfield, Greenwich, Tower Hamlets,Havering, Newham, Harrow, Hackney and Lewisham, the proportion rose by more than that, usually much more, with private rental numbers doubling in Enfield and tripling in Barking and Dagenham.
Some boroughs showed a rise in renters which was 18% less than average – Kingston, Wandsworth, Kensington and Chelsea, Camden, Richmond and Westminster (though these changes were only just outside the 18% band around the average).

Ah, statistics are so opaque – if only we could explain these differences with some obvious difference between Enfield, Barking, Tower Hamlets and Newham on the one hand and Kingston, Wandsworth, Richmond, Kensington and Chelsea on the other.

Hey! wait a cotton pickin’ minute! Those there are the poor boroughs! And those on the other side are the rich ones!
OMG, shock horror and blow me down with a feather – the rise in private rented households is all about … money!

It’s not due to all the hip young things not wanting to settle down; it’s the fact that buying a house is just too expensive for most of us to even dream of. (And getting a social tenancy? – Well, you can dream of it – and keeping dreaming until you’re past retirement age if you like!)

A look deeper into the borough by borough statistics (Shelter have a copy at http://england.shelter.org.uk/campaigns/why_we_campaign/census/census_data ) shows that where the private renters came from varies by borough. In the big Outer London boroughs with the massive rise, Enfield and Barking and Dagenham, social renting numbers stayed the same, while people moved from mortgaged ownership to private renting.
In the Inner London boroughs, such as Tower Hamlets and Hackney, the decimation of social housing played it’s part, accounting for most of the private rentals rise, but just as many people as the other boroughs moved from mortgaged ownership to private renting.

The numbers make a mockery of the idea that we live in housing of our choice and confirm what all of us without taxpayer-funded second homes already knew – that we live in the housing that’s available to us, no matter that we might prefer a stable house of our own, or even a secure social tenancy – And that means the private rentals sector. Even when – as so often is the case – the homes for rent don’t meet the most basic standards. It’s not great, but we’re stuck with it. But, as we try to improve our lot, our numbers are growing rapidly.

Very few private tenants are in contact with groups or services that can help them defend themselves from the abuses of some bad landlords, and attacks by a government of property-owners. But – as the census numbers show – as a group we are growing. And as we grow and come together, we can push more effectively for the housing basics we need.

Digs is a campaign to improve conditions in the private rental sector (PRS). We don’t believe Eric Pickles’ when he says that the housing market will ‘find solutions’ to the bad conditions and overcharging that exist. We will campaign for rights for individual private tenants and also for regulation and legislation to enforce minimum standards on landlords. You can join Digs if you are a private tenant in Hackney (or other groups if you live outside Hackney). If you have skills or knowledge to offer our campaign, or can build our support network for tenants, or if you just need someone on your side – get in touch!

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