As the Government threatens to cap housing benefit at £250 per week for a one bed flat Boris Johnson is calling for Londoners to be ‘spared’ from such ‘draconian’ plans. But then Boris, from Canonbury and Eton, probably can’t imagine living in anything costing £250 per week.
Here in the East London Line boroughs, we are ready to open our comforting arms to embrace the frantic, stressed and newly nomadic citizens. We face little competition for cheap rented accommodation in the capital .
Checking on the Find-a-Property website we found an abundance of one bed flats with the highest number in Hackney (31 places). Croydon had the smallest number of flats available in the price range on the site, with nineteen each for Lewisham and Tower Hamlets.
Admittedly some of the flats would be ideal only for those who use multi-tasking as a way of life.: homes where you can cook, use the toilet and feed the cat all at the same time. Yes the places are small. What do you expect to £250 in London?
Hackney typically over the years has been a borough of high unemployment and back in 2006 was rated the worst borough to live in through a Channel 4 survey. At the same time unemployment figures were the highest in London at 16.4%. Many of the flats on offer are (irony of ironies) those very same ex-council flats that were sold off to their tenants the last time the Conservatives were in power in the 1980s. However, the new East London Line, has encouraged a frenzy of flat building, bringing with it some great housing opportunities at a low cost. The timing is perfect.
Beware though, the prices rise, and the space, declines the closer you get to Shoreditch (which has lately gone up in the world due to the presence of its burgeoning celebrity scene).
As a pretend job seeker with an allowance of £280 a week, I went into various estate agents around Shoreditch to see what was really available for my budget. The results were not encouraging. In one case I was offered a luxurious (ahem) 1 bed flat on Bethnal Green Road. I was told, if I wanted to, I could use the large(ish) living space as a second bedroom. I was smitten, especially when I saw what it looked like from outside.
Saying this, not all were as sad and I did come across a new build block of “highly modern 1 bedroom apartments located in Dalston, decorated to the very highest of standards in one of East London’s most desired developments, just a stone’s throw from the new Dalston (East London Line)”. On the map it appears to be actually inside the Kingsland shopping centre which could be handy for those who have come down in the world as you can sell gold for cash right there, a stone’s throw from your bed.
Things will be tougher for big families who are allocated £400 per week as a maximum for a four bedroom home. There are only a handful at that price available in our boroughs but, if you are happy to move to the further reaches of Croydon, we found a nice four bed detached house near Coombe lane Tram Link. Of course you may not be able to afford to get to work from there but then you are unemployed so it doesn’t matter does it? Oh you were hoping to find another job were you? Well I am sure there will be plenty of opportunities for you in the New Addington area.
One problem the newly redundant may find, if they venture into the East London Line boroughs, is that, despite having cheap flats available, not all private landlords will accept approaches from tenants on housing benefits. So the answer may well be, if you are a public sector worker, expecting to be given the sack any time soon, find your low-priced nest in advance of the axe. Landlords are more likely to take benefits payments from tenants they already know.
This rush to the East could well result in shortages and price rises and the mother Teresa of boroughs may be forced to turn people away, leaving them high and dry on the property front. So move now while stocks last.
Of course reality of the new housing benefit cap will be increasing social divisions across London as those who fall on hard times (usually for no fault of their own) are forced to move to the ‘joblossvilles’ around the periphery of the City. (see our lead article)
“On Yer Bike” was the slogan coined for the Thatcher era when the legendary Norman Tebbitt advised unemployed people to move to other areas in search of work. The slogan for the Osborne era could well become: “pick up your bed and walk”.
By Amy Lacey and EastLondonLines