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Affordability crisis?

As soon as the land of any country has all become private property, the landlords, like all other men, love to reap where they never sowed, and demand a rent even for its natural produce.

We have something of a housing crisis in this country, which seems to be a fact universally acknowledged.

David Cameron has said he wants to turn Generation Rent into Generation Buy and promised to do more to help increase our housing stock, particularly of the “affordable” variety. But what if you can’t even become part of Generation Rent?

What if our housing problem has become so acute that even renting is becoming a problem for some people.

Something I picked up on Twitter the other day, posted by a journalist pal of mine, was a lament by a chap who is about to become homeless, along with his wife, through absolutely no fault of their own.

His story goes like this: The building in Clapham in which their one-bedroomed flat is situated, has been sold. All sitting tenants were given two months’ notice of eviction.

Now two months’ notice might, you think, be perfectly sufficient time in which to find a new rented flat. Not so, it seems: “For the last seven weeks we have made Herculean efforts to try to find somewhere else to live – we are both working, we have the deposit – only to be turned down every time, not because of who we are but because someone nips in before us and takes the place. Or the places are so bad I wouldn’t even put a hamster in them. We saw a place yesterday which would have been perfect, and today I am really ‘scared of what’s going to happen to us; there isn’t much time left. I work for the NHS and my wife works for a London Council so we are not exactly rolling in money but we are earning. What we are metaphorically being told is that what we do and who we are isn’t good enough for London. Or for property owners in London, anyway.”

This chap works in Chelsea, his wife in Streatham. All they are looking for is a decent, furnished one-bedroomed flat within reasonable commuting distance of both those locations and a reasonable amount of space for two adults.

Now these people may be an isolated case, I appreciate that. But somehow I don’t think they are. What we will end up with is key workers – this guy works for the NHS don’t forget – forced to live further and further away from their places of work. How does that fit in with shift patterns and the 24hour access to NHS services that Jeremy Hunt is insisting on?

We will end up with key workers forced out of jobs in the capital because the toll of longer and longer commutes on top of longer and longer hours proves too much for them.

I know that capital cities tend to have different types of economies to other cities, though I’m still sure this isn’t just a London-centric problem.

I’ve blogged before about the problems of people not being a ble to get on the house-owning ladder and the knock-on problems that causes. But never mind buying, if two adults with proper jobs in London can’t even manage to find somewhere to rent, then we have no hope of solving our housing problems.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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