We go on about London's housing crisis quite a lot, but if you ever feel bogged down by specific arguments about buy to leave or Right to Buy, a new report to be released today by the NLA is the perfect starting point for you.
We won't reprise it here (partly because we've talked about much of the points in the past ourselves), but there were a few things that caught our eye and are worth sharing. Firstly, 8% of all London homes are overcrowded, rising to 13% in the private rented sector. Yet, when it comes to owner occupiers, 40% have two or more spare bedrooms. This is likely down to the 'empty nest' factor, when the kids leave home and parents find themselves with lots of space. Ideally they'd downsize and let another growing family move in, but where's the incentive when house prices keep going up?
Secondly: about 40%-50% of households in the private rented sector are living in poverty. This, the authors say, is because of the decline in social housing where such households would previously have lived. Let's not forget that, despite London's reputation as a playground for the rich, the median household income is £35,740 and 80% of us earn less than £45k — again, per household, not even per person. The lack of genuinely affordable housing, which also pushes up rents because there are more people chasing privately rented homes, has contributed to London's housing benefit bill hitting £6bn in 2013.
Of course, if you're renting you probably don't need us to tell you what's wrong with the system. And you'll probably be nodding along furiously at another new report, this time from the London Assembly Conservatives. They've gathered data from seven councils about tenants reporting outstanding repairs to environmental teams. A total of 2,782 repairs were recorded between 2012-2104, 428 were urgent (e.g., no water, heating or a leak). Tenants only report these issues to their council if the landlord or letting agent isn't responding — and many tenants don't even know this course of action is possible, so issues are likely under-reported. Even after the council got involved, 152 tenants had to wait more than three months before their emergency was fixed. Three months. These landlords and agents have no right to be in business.
The Conservatives, obviously, don't favour regulation to deal with this problem, but do have some suggestions to tighten up the process, like getting councils to agree on a city-wide response time for councils to get back to tenants (at the moment it varies from an hour in Havering to a week in Westminster), and a response time league table so residents can hold their local borough to account. They also suggest councils should be able to fine landlords who can't be bothered to look after the very people who pay the rent. There's also a suggestion for something so common sense it beggars belief it isn't already standard practice: giving out emergency contact numbers and a list of approved tradespeople in advance. It should be so simple, yet it all seems to be so very hard.