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What’s the story with affordable housing in Harrow?

In 1987 the average rent in the UK was £100 per month and while renting in London was more expensive than most other parts of the country, it was manageable for adults working full time. Fast forward just 35 years and the rental picture in Harrow is very different. In this article, we’re opening the doors on the story of affordable housing in Harrow.

Harrowing conditions

Anybody who is a fan of the TV show ‘Nightmare Tenants, Slum Landlords’ will know that our borough is often the star of the show. In a number of episodes, housing officers from Harrow Council are called out to investigate cases in which rogue landlords are exploiting tenants by cramming as many people into a property as possible.

In some cases, these tenants are people from overseas who have been lured to the UK with the promise of high wages and low rent but, this issue also impacts residents who were born and bred in Harrow.

The reason that these tenants are forced to risk their health in these dangerous and overcrowded conditions is that they simply find it impossible to find decent accommodation that they can afford.

Building boom in our borough

In the last 10 years or so, it seems that a new block of flats is popping up in Harrow every other day – which should solve the housing problem right? Wrong. Unfortunately, many of these flats are far from affordable – for example, a one bedroom flat in Harrow costs around £400 per week. With a minimum wage standing at £10.42 this is simply untenable.

Council homes

The cheapest way to secure accommodation is, of course, to rent a home from the council. Unfortunately, it is in no way that simple. In order to secure a council house or flat, you will need to show evidence that you:

  • Are on a low income
  • Do not have a large amount of savings
  • Have lived in the area for a number of years, or have a job or family there – this is called a ‘local connection’

Or, you may be entitled to apply for a council home as a priority if you:

  • Are legally homeless
  • Need to move because of a disability or serious, long-term health condition
  • Need to move to a different area because of ‘hardship’ – this could be to get medical treatment, because you’re in danger or to take up a new job
  • Are currently in a home that’s overcrowded or in poor condition

Even if you fit all the criteria and your application is accepted, the bad news is that you won’t immediately be allocated a home – by Harrow Council’s own admission, it can take ‘many years’ for this to happen.

Playing fair

With soaring living costs in the UK, it’s clear that providing affordable housing to Harrow residents needs to be made a priority in order to avoid worsening the homelessness problem in London which is already at crisis point.

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