Sad but Not Surprising: Rising Rental Rates in London Hit Poor People Hardest

London rental rates impacting low-income earners

Rising rental rates in London are hitting poor people the hardest, with rents in the most deprived areas increasing by 52% over the past four years, compared to 29% in wealthier regions.

For poor people in London, rents are increasing at double the rate of the rest of the population. As has been the global trend, this means poor people are placed in a very precarious predicament simply because they are poor. The expectation is that they will pay a price for their poverty, even if the price is falling directly into homelessness

To quote The Guardian, which published data presented by real estate agent Hamptons, “People living in the most deprived areas of Britain have seen their rents increase by 52% over the past four years – while for tenants in the wealthiest regions, rents have risen by only 29%…”

It should be noted that raising rental rates by 29% over four years is also outlandish. However, it pales in comparison to the speed at which those same rates rise for renter households stricken by poverty, who are already struggling to remain above water.

Running in Circles: UK Residents Relocate but the High Rents Follow Them to New Locales

One in five UK residents is classified as having “relative low income” when housing costs are taken into consideration. Relative low income means they are earning less than 60% of the median salary. This figure equates to roughly 14.3 million citizens

Experts have described a supply-and-demand problem so severe that low-income renter households are often set at odds with one another while vying for the same small supply of affordable homes.

Eventually, after lengthy and exhausting apartment searches, poverty-stricken families and individuals will relocate. Still, as more and more people relocate to the same areas, the rental rates are pushed up in these new locations, exacerbating the affordability crisis in areas where people are already financially struggling. As a result, experts describe dire circumstances, including:

  • Food insecurity
  • Material deprivation
  • Homelessness

More UK Residents Are Being Forced into Poverty and Displacement

Setting aside for a moment the bitter irony that the rental rates are rising fastest in the places where people can least afford the increases, there is something else to be considered. Sharply upturning rental prices in specifically vulnerable areas is also a form of displacement. It is emblematic of the catastrophic outcomes when one person’s business is another person’s means of survival. 

To the tenant, a rental property is a home. It is the haven they need to secure their children’s safety. It is the refuge they take when they’ve worked a double shift. It is where they store prized belongings, the rooms where new memories are made.

To the landlord, a rental property is but a space to make money inside of. If things don’t work out for the landlord, all they lose is a little bit of money. If things don’t work out for the tenant who can no longer afford these double-digit increases, everything they have and are is on the line.

“This, too, is a form of displacement,” Tenant Rights Attorney Leah Goodridge concurred in a brief interview with Invisible People reporters. “It’s not eviction but another form of displacement.”

The Struggle Highlights a Clash Between Neighbors and Crises as Social Systems Buckle Under Pressure

Poverty analysts and housing academics claim the problem is caused as much by clashing crises as it is by clashing prospective tenants. While increasingly impoverished residents all clamber over the relatively low supply of available rental units, the housing crisis comes head-to-head with the homelessness crisis and the affordability crisis, creating a perfect storm. 

“Certainly, when you already have an extremely low income, and you’re already paying 50%, 60%, even 70% or more of your income on rent, any sort of a rent increase is going to make it that much harder for you to stay on top of your finances and not fall behind and face eviction. And in the worst case, face homelessness as a result of an eviction,” said Sarah Saadian, who currently serves as Senior Vice President of Public Policy and Field Organizing for the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

“So, the households with the lowest incomes can’t afford any rent increase,” she continued. “In fact, that’s why we need to be doing more to make sure that they have access to universal rental assistance so that they’re not paying more than 30% of their income on rent.”

Talk to Your Legislators About Increasing Rental Protections, Particularly for People Living in Poverty

Although it is more expensive to reside in a wealthy UK neighborhood, rent prices increase twice as fast in low-income areas. As landlords continue to prioritize profits over morality, more UK residents are being pushed into relative poverty, absolute poverty, and, in extreme cases, homelessness.

Please contact your local legislators and advocate for rent stabilization, eviction prevention programs, and permanent, affordable housing for all.

Cynthia Griffith

Cynthia Griffith


Cynthia Griffith is a freelance writer dedicated to social justice and environmental issues.

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