Affordable housing is one of the top five issues for voters aged 18-24, according to a recent survey.
Voters aged 18 to 24, many of whom will be voting for the first time at the 2015 general election, ranked housing affordability as one of the top five most important issues in a BBC Radio 1 survey. 24 per cent of young voters deemed housing should be one of the top priorities of the incoming government, more than double the 11 per cent of the general public who agreed.
How much these young renters pay out of their wages on rent varies greatly from borough to borough, and whether they are living on the north or south of the river. As renting numbers continue to swell, how large are the sums being spent on rent across the Eastlondonlines area?
What proportion of the boroughs are renters?
According to a November report by campaign group Generation Rent, ELL boroughs have some of the highest renting populations in the country when measured by constituency, 49 of London’s 73 parliamentary constituencies have majority renting population.
Hackney South and Shoreditch has the largest proportion of any renting population in London with 76 per cent of its constituents living in rented accommodation. Both constituencies in Tower Hamlets and Hackney are among the ten highest renting populations, with Poplar and Limehouse seeing nearly 24,000 new renters between 2001 and 2011.
Every Croydon constituency currently has fewer than 50 per cent of its population renting but this can be expected to change in some areas by early in the next decade if current trends continue. The constituency of Croydon North had just 37 per cent of its population renting in 2001 but this grew by 11 percentage points in the next 10 years. It is expected to hit 60 per cent by 2021.
How much does it cost to rent in the ELL boroughs?
Home.co.uk provides detailed neighbourhood specific rental prices for many of the wards in ELL boroughs. In every area for which data was available the median rent for a two-bedroom property was greatly higher than £1,000 per calendar month.
This is reinforced by data acquired in February by Sadiq Khan, MP for Tooting and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice. He requested figures from the House of Commons Library on the cost of rent in every London borough.
Responding to figures that showed that Londoners spend nearly half of their income on rent Khan, who is rumoured to be running for London mayor in 2016, said: “The housing crisis is the biggest problem facing my generation of London politicians and these figures show just how badly Londoners are suffering. It is simply not sustainable for people to pay more than half of their income on rent alone.”
This data showed that, as of March 2014, renters in Hackney paid the eighth highest median rate of London boroughs, £330 per week. This is £30 higher than the median for the capital. Tower Hamlets renters are also paying high rents, their £323 being amongst the ten most expensive in the capital.
People in the outer London boroughs of Lewisham and Croydon face much lower rents, £230 in the former. The £202 of Croydon is the fourth-lowest of the capital’s boroughs.
How much of ELL renters’ earnings is going on rent?
Khan’s request also included data on median weekly earnings in the capital, for the whole of London that comes to £617.80. Even though median rents for the borough of Hackney are higher than most of London, earnings are nearly £10 per week lower.
This means that residents in Hackney pay 54 per cent of their weekly income in rent, the third highest of any borough in London. Renters in Tower Hamlets are also paying nearly half of their weekly earnings.
Properties in the two ELL boroughs south of the river require notably less of their resident’s earnings, with rent in Lewisham coming to 38% of earnings and 34% in Croydon.
With costs rising a growing number of politicians are making pledges for further regulation of the market, with prospective Mayor Diane Abbott calling for serious change in the capital’s market:
“There are some things which you just can’t leave to the market, and housing is one of them. That is why no great European city, or New York and San Francisco, don’t leave housing just to the market. We have to understand that just like health, just like education, it’s just too important that the state doesn’t have a role.”
Her concern was echoed by her potential rival, with Khan offering his parties’ proposed changes: “We must help generation rent by making renting more affordable and secure. We will make 3 year tenancies the standard, cap rent rises over that period and ban letting agents from charging fees to tenants. Helping renters is Labour’s top priority in London.”
Beyond Labour more radical action is brewing, with the growth in popularity of the Green Party amongst younger voters at least partly due to their commitment to rent controls.
The consequences of failure could be dire, with Alex Hilton, the director of campaign group Generation Rent, warning: “With rents so high, it’s becoming impossible for native Londoners and newcomers alike to make a life for themselves in the capital. London will start seeing a brain drain and that will cripple businesses with rising wage pressures, damaging the city and the UK economy as a whole. London’s renters need action from politicians – and fast.”
Data and words by James Benge
Video by Alex Taylor and Alexandra Rogers