Living for the City…but at what cost?

The other day I was on the train coming home from work and was so amused by the conversation happening between two friends. One of the guys started speaking rather loudly about his work and the ‘incestuous’ theatre world. I have never heard anyone name drop big names ‘Old Vic’ ‘Punch Drunk’, ‘Bicycle Theatre’ and the like in such a ridiculously short period of time. It was pretty obvious it was for the benefit of nosey eavesdroppers like me to listen and be ‘impressed’ by his well connectedness. Then the conversation took an interesting, slightly more serious turn about the price of private renting in London reflected in the reduction in volume of his voice. Theatre lovey and his chum shared their experiences of renting and the tales of bad housemates, shoddy accommodation and landlords refusing to give references. But the thing which resonated most was that in some instances, they had needed up to six month’s rent as a deposit in order to secure a place!

As a lifelong Londoner with a brief hiatus in Birmingham- I know London is a pretty expensive city and have seen the cost of living rise greatly. I also know that six months rent is a ridiculous amount of money to expect anyone to have upfront especially given the astronomical rise in private rents over the past 5 years at least. All I could think is who could afford six months rent on the average London 20-something salary? And for those who could afford it surely they wouldn’t need to rent?

Only a week ago a report was published by the Resolution Foundation; one of the key findings was that over 1.6 million households were spending half their disposable income on housing costs. A significant percentage of those households were young 20-somethings’ living in London on their own.

I almost fall into this category but am fortunate enough to live in a nice, affordable flat in a decent location and thank God; I literally got it just before rental prices surged. However I know far too many people in house shares spending excessive amounts of money on rent with little benefits or space; and it seems this situation is likely to get worse before it gets better.

This  presents further problems if there are other factors to be considered. Imagine being young, disabled, in work and wanting to live in London? Not only is it difficult to find affordable property but wheelchair accessible accommodation is another thing entirely. Very recently a young disabled man I worked with wrote a comment piece in the Guardian sharing his frustrations about this very thing.

There has been a lot of talk about introducing controls on the levels of rent private landlords can charge prospective tenants but it seems as though little progress has been made. I would love to know, what can be done to ensure there are affordable places to live in London, especially for 20 and 30 somethings’? What has been your experiences of renting in the private sector?

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