Please don’t think this is a defence of landlords in London; it isn’t. They want to squeeze every last penny out of renters in the capital and that will never change.
The reasons landlords are the villains right now is that the cost of renting has gone up again (2.4% UK average, 4.5% in London) and the figures comparing London to the rest of the country make anyone paying to live here (like me) look plain stupid. For instance, London households apparently spend 71% of their salaries on rent, according to a FindaProperty.com Index published this week – the average net wage in London is £36k and £24k of that goes on rent.
When I first moved to London in 2006 I thought a wise ratio to stick to would be to spend 2/5ths of my income on putting a roof over my head. But that was back when I thought rents would stay about £100 a week per person and before I discovered council tax, paying full price at the cinema and Zone 1-6 travelcards.
So renting in London seems like a mad thing to do. But it isn’t. Firstly, think about why people come to London (or stay here) in the first place – a place at a prestigious university, a once-in-a-lifetime graduate scheme or – in my case – the whole damn industry. Yes, you could live in some random part of the UK for a fraction of the price, save up and buy a house there but for education, inspiration and careers London has a lot going for it.
Then there’s the culture, the history and the people. Even if rent saps all your money in the capital, that’s not going to stop you visiting some of the world’s greatest museums and galleries for free, nipping over to Buckingham Palace or finding cheap bars and markets. In a week where I was supposed to saving money, I still accidentally ended up in a Caribbean restaurant in Brixton, at a reading at the ICA and in a basement bar not far from Oxford Street.
So what if I’ve spent over £25,000 on renting in London since my first year at university here? I’m a city girl and as a journalist I need to be in the thick of it or else I’m not much use to anyone. I’d spend the same amount in New York or Tokyo and I honestly believe my interests and awareness would be much narrower had I not moved here. Renting also means you are independent from a) your parents and b) a man who’s richer/ older/ more successful than you and wants you to move into his house. That’s pretty valuable.