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HomeNewsResidents share their views on spiralling private rental costs in Brent

Residents share their views on spiralling private rental costs in Brent

The average cost of renting privately in one North London borough has risen over the past 12 months.

Since February last year, tenants in Brent have seen their housing costs increase sharper than anywhere else in the country, leaving some residents feeling like life has become about nothing more than simply working to afford the extortionate prices.

The cost of renting the average private home in Brent is 20 per cent more expensive than it was in February 2023, according to data from the government’s Housing Market Indices Team. This increase is five per cent more than the next worst affected London borough, and more than double the national average.

The private rented sector in Brent has grown from 32 per cent of the total housing stock in 2011, to around 46 per cent by 2022. But renters here feel they are no longer getting value for money, leaving some considering moving out of the area altogether.

Elvin Canden, 31, moved to the borough five years ago from Tuscany, in Italy. When he first started renting here he was paying around £500 for a room, but annual increases have meant he is now forced to look for cheaper accommodation.

Elvin told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): “It’s very expensive. I’m actually looking for a new place now because I need to move. At the moment I am paying £700 for one room with six other people.”

He added: “Now the landlord asked me for next month to pay £900. He tells me that it’s because he has to spend too much on taxes and things. In Tuscany, for £900 we would have a big apartment, now they want me to spend £900 for one room.”

Residents share their views on spiralling private rental costs in Brent Harrow Online
Elvin Canden, 31. Elvin said the cost of rent has left him with very little disposable income. Image Credit: Grant Williams

Whilst his rent looks set to almost double over the past five years, Elvin’s wages haven’t risen at the same rate and he says the impact on his life has been ‘very bad’. He explains how his lack of disposable income means most of the time he is living a kind-of groundhog day where he goes to work, comes home, eats, sleeps, and repeat.

He said: “I am very stressed, I’m feeling down. It’s not easy at the moment. I’m just thinking, I’m only working to pay my rent, where is my life? There’s no enjoyment or anything.”

As of last month (February, 2024) it now costs £1,824 a month to rent the average private home in Brent – up by a fifth since February 2023 when it was £1,520. That’s a larger percentage increase than any other local authority in the whole of Britain has seen over the same period. It means that the average private rent in the borough now makes up 60 per cent of the average pre-tax full-time salary of someone living in the area.

Daniela Poescu, 24, has been renting privately alongside her children for the past three years. She is ‘very surprised’ that Brent has seen the largest increases but is herself looking to move out of the borough because the prices in Brent are ‘just mad’.

Daniela told the LDRS: “The landlord increased the price for me six months or so ago from £1,300, now I am paying £1,550 a year for a small two-bedroom flat. I think they want to increase it again next month. They haven’t told me yet but every May it has gone up in price, so I am expecting maybe an extra £300 more.”

Daniela tops up her salary with Universal Credit to stay afloat but feels renters in Brent are not getting value for money. She highlights other expense increases as well as rent, including energy bills and child care, which has left the family ‘really struggling’.

She said: “It has a huge impact on my life.  It’s not just the rent, they have increased the electricity and everything else as well. We are really struggling at the moment. It’s £400 a month for electricity, £125 for council tax, then the rent, food, clothes, nursery. It’s really tough.”

Greenwich has seen the next largest percentage increase in London (15.4 per cent), followed by Islington (13.4 per cent), Tower Hamlets (13.2 per cent), Westminster (12.8 per cent), and Hounslow (12.4 per cent). At a national level, private rents rose by 8.8 per cent in England (to £1,276 a month), 9 per cent in Wales (to £723 a month), and 10.9 per cent in Scotland (to £944 a month).

But it’s not just existing private renters that are despondent about the rapidly increasing prices, it’s also social renters who dream of being able to move out into private accommodation. Mum of four, Ngozi Ijanboh, 42, said the soaring costs means it’s ‘becoming impossible’ to do so.

She told the LDRS: “With no way of saving for a deposit to purchase our own home, we’ll never have a chance of leaving social housing. The prices for London properties are extortionate.”

She added: “There should be a cap on private rents. Landlords should not be allowed to fleece people. If a Landlord wants to be part of the answer to the housing crises and use the vulnerability of tenants as a business they should have to pay a percentage of their rental income to the government towards the rebuilding of new homes.”

Ngozi said income is the biggest barrier for social renters to enter the private market and claims it is ‘not possible at all’ at the moment unless she applied for housing benefit. However, Ngozi is reluctant to do this as she feels it is too restrictive and is already paying huge rents in social housing.

Residents share their views on spiralling private rental costs in Brent Harrow Online
Ngozi Ijanboh, 42. Ngozi feels like moving from social housing into a private rental is ‘impossible’. Image Credit: Ngozi Ijanboh.

She said: “Increasing your income does not benefit your family, it is deducted to pay for your housing benefit. You become trapped in the system and have no way of bettering your life. If we include rent and council tax, it costs 50 per cent of my income, and that’s for social housing!”

Labour-run Brent Council will soon introduce new laws which require all landlords in the borough, other than Wembley Park, to obtain a selective licence. The initiative, which is expected to launch borough wide in spring, aims to elevate living standards for renters and strengthen Brent’s relationships with private landlords.

But Ngozi fears that the £640 fee for a five-year licence will only exacerbate the issue of spiralling private rental prices as landlords simply pass cost onto tenants. She said: “The council’s licensing scheme will have no effect. Who is policing it? how will it be enforced? If councils don’t even follow the laws around housing, why would the landlords?”

Cabinet Member for Housing, Homelessness and Renters’ Security, Cllr Promise Knight, said it’s ‘Britain, not Brent’ that is in a housing crisis and blamed ‘decades of failed policies’ that have grown the demand for housing without increasing the availability of affordable homes.

She accused the Conservatives of ‘presiding over a decade of decay’ which has left house prices ‘more than nine times higher than the average annual salary’. Brent built more new homes than any other council last year and Cllr Knight believes providing more housing is the only way to bring rents down to help the 32,838 residents currently on the borough’s housing waiting list.

She said: “Put simply, renters, homeowners, first-time buyers – all, are being priced out from the place that they call home. In Brent, nearly half of our residents are private renters and the increase in interest rates is being passported onto tenants. It is vital that the government commits in full to implementing the Renters Reform Bill that would prevent rogue landlords from launching no-fault evictions, and from implementing punishing rent increases.

She added: “In the meantime, the council is fighting to drive standards up for renters. From April 1 our borough-wide licensing will come into force, supporting tenants to ensure that they live in safe, secure and decent housing. The licence fee that landlords will pay will allow us to recruit more and more enforcement officers, so that we can inspect 20,000 homes as part of a virtuous circle to help renters across the borough.”

Leader of the Brent Liberal Democrats, Cllr Anton Georgiou, said news that Brent has experienced the biggest private rent hike in the country ‘will come as no surprise to tenants in our borough’. He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): “[They] are forking out so much every month and too many others who have been priced out of their community because there are so few affordable options.”

The Liberal Democrats claim they have ‘consistently argued’ that the council needs to be delivering more genuinely affordable homes to tackle the growing housing waiting list. Until this happens, they believe local people will ‘continue to be priced out’ of properties in the borough.

Cllr Georgiou said: “Locally, despite what Brent Labour say, they are also not helping. In recent years our borough has experienced major development of unaffordable, luxury, flats that are driving up rent levels. The gentrification that has been encouraged by the council has gone a long way in changing the demographics of Brent. They are creating a borough that will only be affordable to those who can pay £1,700 a month for a studio flat in Wembley Park.”

The Brent Conservative Group were approached for comment but did not respond ahead of publication.

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