[Ben Reeve Lewis sees the end in sight …...]
Its getting like the end of the Grand National.
With the end in sight, Labour fly out of the back four with a vote winner for tenants everywhere promising rent controls.
The clue to the reason for this last minute push is on the second paragraph on Labour’s own website:
“Nine million people now rent privately”.
What took you so long Ed? Didnt realise the size of the demographic?
It’s probably deliberate timing to be honest. Dinner party and pub chats with various people I know who habitually vote for a particular party are for once, like me, undecided and according to polls, little splits Labour and Tory at the moment. 9 million people suddenly tucked in your back pocket would be a nice tactical swing wouldn’t it?
In response Cameron has re-stated his intention to cut the benefit cap from £26,000 to £23,000 saying it will ‘Cause a stampede to the job centre’.
Appealing to the home counties no doubt but not to the electorate affected by this cruel daftness.
I see more than a few of those 9 million tenant voters, particularly in London, getting clearer on which way they will swing. There is a man who really doesn’t get the demographic and is another sign of how out of touch with the vast majority of struggling people his lot are.
A definite case of ‘Let them eat cake’.
Rent rises to taper off
But on Tuesday letting agents Your Move and Reids Rain announced the results of their survey of private landlords saying that rent rises will actually taper off over the coming 12 months anyway.
The figures run thus:
“The proportion of landlords who will not raise their rents in the next 12 months has increased from 56% in September 2014 to 60% currently. Only a minority (40%) intend to increase their rental prices before March 2016.
The survey also showed that, over the last six months, 45% of landlords have witnessed an increase in tenant demand – rising from 41% of landlords in September 2014.
Also, three in five landlords (60%) now believe that it is a good time to invest in buy-to-let – a rise from 54% of property investors in September 2014.”
I wonder how many of those surveyed are London landlords.
Most landlords I speak to and believe it or not I am on genuinely friendly terms with quite a few, tell me that their rent increases are already below inflation, but these aren’t London landlords in the main.
Embedded in the emergency end of London housing as I am Monday to Friday, I see regular increases of 10% as a norm, which when coupled with the benefit cap is driving more people down to the homelessness unit, where tax payer’s money (your money) is used to either rehouse them, or clear rent arrears and top up shortfalls between benefits and the market rent.
A real life example
The other day I was interviewing a working client couple with a teenager whose joint earnings are £2,000 a month.
They have some rent and deposit ready to go but can’t actually find anywhere to move to because letting agents are asking for 6 weeks rent in advance on top of a deposit, also that the tenants earn at least 3 times the monthly rent, which in our area is on average £1,100 for a small two bed flat.
The only alternative they have been told is to pay 6 month’s rent up front. Which is £6,600 not including deposit, so they would have to find £7,700 which also doesn’t include moving costs just to transfer from one small rented flat to another.
If they need a guarantor the agents are telling them that the guarantors must show they earn 3 – 6 times the rent. And folks this is an ordinary hard working family, not The Sun’s ‘Fat Dole Scroungers’. People who are indeed doing, what Cameron and IDS keep emphasising, ‘The right thing’! and yet getting squeezed out of their homes for having done so.
All of which to my mind indicates that London needs an emergency and separate solution to the rest of the UK.
Life outside the M25
Just outside the M25 ring rents are often less than half. Even above-rate of inflation linked increases would be much more easy to handle, and given the letting agents requirement to be earning three times the rent my couple could still get somewhere to live.
The only alternative, a mass exodus out of London, already happening for many homelessness clients who can’t afford to rent there any more, despite the decision of Nzolomesa v. Westminster (Watch councils wriggle out of that one-I’m hearing the talk) but also rapidly becoming the only sane, rational choice for people looking to live a life without handing over 60%-70% of their take-home pay just to keep a roof over their head.
Certainly one I am considering, even if, as I’m told, there are trees beyond the M25…….cue shudders!!!!!!.
But hey ho.
The lucky generation
The ever interesting and challenging Prof Danny Dorling wrote an insightful piece in the Telegraph on Tuesday pointing out that our perspective of renting and home ownership is skewed somewhat by the experiences of a very fortunate, single generation of people born in the 50s who literally never had it so good.
Danny throws quite a few figures in there and points out that our ideas and aspirations are a historical inaccuracy caused by a strange, social blip in the life of our nation. The generation before and the current generation were private renters and the homeownership idyll is entirely a bonus of being a baby boomer. He says:
“The golden generation of home ownership – an exception not the rule.”
Adding some handy statistics:
“Of those now in their eighties, only half were homeowners or had a mortgage by their fifties. The others rented. People currently in their nineties had it even harder. So, though it may surprise some young people, the elderly of today also come from the generation when it was the norm to rent.”
I’ll take his figures on the chin but it doesn’t chime with my family, all resolutely lower end working class. My parents owned their own home admittedly not until they were nearly 40 and their parents, born in 1903 also owned.
I don’t remember any friend’s parents as a kid who weren’t either home owners or council tenants come to think of it.
Election fever is nearly done with and we can all either relax and look forward to the future or emigrate, depending on how each of us views the result.
What made me smile this week
Frankie Boyle’s marvellous rant on political attitudes to race and immigration in the Guardian In which he expounds the idea that satire is dead because Britain has in fact become a parody of itself. Of Ed Milliband he offers:
“It seems that his main argument against immigrants is that his dad raised a befuddled f**kwit. Could you hand Labour’s “controls on immigration” mug to a guest? There’s nothing like jollying up a Macmillan Cancer Support coffee morning by making your neighbours feel like the pakoras were a little unwelcome.”
Adding with no little seriousness and as a perfect repost to that idiot Katy Hopkins and her loathsome comments about immigrants drowning in the Mediterranean
“We fear the arrival of immigrants that we have drawn here with the wealth we stole from them. For much of the rest of the world we must be the focus of bitter amusement, characters in a satire we don’t understand.”
See ya next week