By Let Down 15 private tenants from 7 local tenant action groups across London held a ‘housewarming party’ at a development of newly built private rented flats in Stratford, east London, in protest at soaring private rents and the government’s failure to tackle the problem. London rents have been rising at around 7 per cent per year. 10 others held a solidarity protest outside the Genesis tower block. The flats are built and let by Genesis, which has been shortlisted to receive funding through a government subsidy scheme for private rented housing in three developments in London. Rents in the occupied development, marketed as ‘Stratford Halo’, start from £1,700pcm for a two bedroom flat, the minimum size needed for a family with children — of which there are now more than 1.3 million renting from private landlords in England. Based on figures published by Shelter, these rents would only be affordable to families with an income of £76,000 or more. Emma Bradshaw, one of the activists, said:
“Private renting is expensive and gives people no security — the last thing we need is more of it. Rather than supporting developers to build expensive private rented housing that is only affordable to the very wealthiest, the government should bring in measures to keep rents under control and invest in good quality genuinely affordable social housing that gives ordinary people the security they need.”
In total, £1bn is being made available to developers to build new private rented properties as subsidised finance at an estimated minimum cost to the public purse of £90m. The government claims that the first £700m of the funding “has the potential to deliver between 8,000 and 10,000 new homes”. If the £1bn was used to build social housing on publicly owned land, around 10,000 new homes could be built, with money recovered through the rents. This would also help to reduce the housing benefit bill, 40 per cent of which now goes to private landlords as one in four private tenants currently needs housing benefit to afford their rent.
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