On Saturday private tenants from seven local tenant action groups across London including Digs held a ‘housewarming party’ at a development of newly built private rented flats in Stratford, east London in protest at soaring private rents and the government’s failure to tackle the problem. London rents have been rising at around 7 per cent per year.
The flats are built and let by Genesis which has been shortlisted to receive funding through a government subsidy ‘Build to Let’ scheme for private rented housing in three developments in London. Rents in the occupied development, marketed as ‘Stratford Halo’, start from £1,700 per month for a two bedroom flat, the minimum size needed for a family with children – of which there are now more than 1.3 million renting from private landlords in England. Based on figures published by Shelter, these rents would only be affordable to families with an income of £76,000 or more.
Emma Bradshaw, one of the activists, said: “Private renting is expensive and gives people no security – the last thing we need is more of it. Rather than supporting developers to build expensive private rented housing that is only affordable to the very wealthiest, the government should bring in measures to keep rents under control and invest in good quality genuinely affordable social housing that gives ordinary people the security they need.”
The Government could be spending their money helping people in genuine housing need – there are 21,000 people on the council housing waiting list in Newham alone, where the protest was held. They could be building social housing or encouraging private landlords to build affordable housing, to take people off the streets, out of terrible temporary B&B were families are languishing for months and out of private substandard accommodation where renters are often exploited by landlords and agents.
Owen Hatherley writes of the ‘Build to Rent’ policy in the Guardian:
“As always, the invisible hand is being given a great deal of help in London, with the current demographic shift where the rich move in and the poor move out encouraged first by the restrictions on council tenure, then by the bedroom tax, and now by a fund being thrown at private developers. The Hertsmere Tower is the more obviously gross part of this equation, its most luxurious end, towering over a borough with 23,000 people on its waiting list, where neighbouring social housing such as Balfron Tower and Robin Hood Gardens are both being prepared for a better class of resident. This isn’t happening automatically, inexorably or accidentally – it’s public policy. Londoners are literally paying for the transformation of their city into a property developer’s paradise.”