Harriet Harman

Parliament has been dissolved until after the General Election and I am no longer an MP

Southwark News column: Housing in the private rented sector - 8/

Every week people ask me for help with housing problems, and for a lot of people the biggest concern is the cost. Whether they’re young people who’ve grown up in Southwark and want to find a place of their own, young couples hoping to start a family or people who’ve found jobs in Southwark and need to find somewhere to live, there is a pressing need for homes that people can afford.
With over 20,000 people on the council housing waiting list, and house prices sky high, many turn to the private rented sector. Because Southwark is so close to the centre of London the average cost of a privately rented two bed flat is £2,000 a month. Such high rents mean that many local people are forced to move away.
Here are some examples of people who’ve recently contacted me about their housing problems with renting in the private sector
-A lone mother and her teenage daughter were evicted from their Peckham flat.  She’d had many problems with the flat, including damp and mould as well as faulty electrics, and asked her landlord to deal with these problems. He didn't and instead he evicted them. They've been looking for a new home ever since but can’t find anywhere they can afford. She works as a care assistant and her hours are changeable so many landlords are reluctant to let to her. They are now living in a hostel as she continues to look for a new home.
-A couple who have lived in their Walworth home for over 20 years face eviction as their private landlord has decided to sell the property. The couple, a student and a part time cleaner, don’t know how they are going to find an affordable home with rents as high as £1,500 a month for a one bedroom flat in their area. Their landlord has agreed to let them stay while they look for somewhere else but they will have to move away from Walworth to an area where rents are cheaper.

-A lone mother from East Dulwich with an 11 year old son faced eviction last year because her landlord raised their rent from £850 to £1,100 a month. She couldn't afford this increase as she works part time as a sales assistant at Argos, and she couldn’t find anywhere else in the local area that she could afford. She didn't want to move away from her friends, her job and her son’s school but in the end she had no choice. She found an affordable home in Croydon but had to uproot her family and find a new school for her son.
London is facing a housing crisis, with a chronic lack of affordable housing across the capital. Under this Government, the situation is getting worse with cuts to housing benefit and not enough new houses being built. As the need grows, it gets even harder for the Council to help people with their housing.  So it is all credit to Southwark Council that they are tackling this by clamping down on bad landlords and building 11,000 new homes - when the Lib Dems ran the Council, they only built one new home! This is the most ambitious social house building programme anywhere in the country.
The next Labour government will deal with the chronic insecurity of Britain’s private rental market. We will stop sky high rent increases and make long term tenancies the standard. This is Labour’s fair deal for rented housing - so that people can settle down, know where their children will go to school, and know they won’t be priced out of their home.

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