True scale of London rent hikes revealed
It's the most concrete data yet on how expensive London is getting for tenants
Morning — anybody who’s signed a new rent contract in London recently already knows things have got rough. But there’s new data out this week that fully reveals the scale of rent hikes across the capital. We dive in after your Sunday briefing below.
Also: very sad to hear that indie news site Loving Dalston is shutting down after 13 years of reporting on north east London. Local MP Diane Abbott offered this tribute: “For me as the local MP, it was required reading. Because the local newspaper gradually covered less news or investigative reporting, Loving Dalston became increasingly important.”
High-quality journalism about our city is getting harder to come by. Help us carry the torch and consider sharing the Spy using the button below 👇
What we’ve spied
🏨 A mega Airbnb block in central London is coming under fire for devouring housing stock. Westminster council found 90 per cent of the 118 properties at Forest Court, near Hyde Park, are being used for holiday stays. “When you have one residential block renting out more rooms than the Ritz every night, you know the system needs to be reformed,” the leader of the council told the Times.
✝️ Some of London’s churches are rebelling against the Church of England’s recent approval of blessings for same-sex couples. Ten clerics at a church in the City of London announced on Thursday they’re establishing an alternative chapter after the CofE’s governing body “departed from the Bible’s teaching on marriage and sin”. It comes after several churches in the capital said they intended to withhold payments to the diocese of London in protest.
🎭 Bad and good news for lovers of the arts in London. First, Riverside Studios in Hammersmith is going into administration, citing soaring energy bills and debt from its redevelopment. The arts centre has hosted contemporary performances, film and visual art exhibitions since the 1970s after it was converted from a BBC studio where programmes like Dr Who were made. On the plus side, long-time Londoners and eccentrics Gilbert and George opened a museum of their work on Saturday.
🚗 Lots of things annoyed London’s pro-car camp this week. Shopowners around Camden Passage in Angel voiced their frustration with a new wiggly road that’s being installed to make cars slow down and discourage parking. Meanwhile, new 20mph speed limits came into force across 17 miles of road in Hackney, Camden, Islington, Haringey and Tower Hamlets. TfL also unveiled its new strategy to replace up to a sixth of van deliveries with cargo bikes.
🏚️ More businesses are closing than opening in London for the first time in six years, figures show. The city saw a net loss of 7,695 local enterprises in 2022 — the worst of any region in the UK — in a sign the cost-of-living crisis is hitting particularly hard in the capital.
🗳️ No confirmation yet if Islington North residents will be able to vote for Jeremy Corbyn as an independent MP. This week the former Labour leader was formally blocked from running for the party again in the next general election, but he’s yet to officially say whether he’ll have at it alone. An ally said on Monday that Corbyn was going to announce “by the end of the week”, so perhaps more word later today?
🐿️ Spare a thought for central London’s squirrels — a study has found they don’t live as long as their counterparts in the outer boroughs. Grey squirrels suffer worsening lung damage the closer they live to the centre of the city due to greater air pollution, according to new research published in the journal Environmental Pollution.
🛴 An interesting read in the Guardian on how London has plotted a different path to Paris on e-scooters. While London seems to be slowly embracing rental scooters after initial reluctance, Paris’s love affair looks over. In other electromobility news, the London Fire Brigade has issued a safety warning to Londoners about buying cheap batteries online to convert bikes into e-bikes.
🥓 A reprieve in the battle to save London’s oldest chophouse. The manager of Simpsons Tavern — an ancient restaurant nestled in a narrow alley in the City of London — was locked out and evicted by their landlord without explanation last October. A judge has now refused a winding-up order requested by the landlord’s lawyers, giving fresh hope to campaigners who are trying to keep the eatery open.
🦕 Continuing with the dino story in Thursday’s Spy, a replica of a massive titanosaur skeleton has gone on display in the Natural History museum. The cast of Patagotitan mayorum, the most complete gigantic dinosaur ever discovered, is as long as three double-decker buses.
How rents have actually spiked in London
It wouldn’t be huge news to tell you London’s rents are rocketing at the moment. The consequences are plain to see — whether it’s absurd queues at viewings or the number of rough sleepers in the city up by a fifth.
Yet it’s only become clear this week what a typical London rent hike now looks like: 12%, according to the Office for National Statistics.
That figure comes from a newly published analysis from the ONS that properly lifts the lid on how rents are increasing in the city. Until now we’ve relied on numbers from property sites like Zoopla, which crunches the number on all its listed ads online. Their latest data showed average room rents up by 15% in the year to January 2023. That’s a start but it isn’t a complete picture — it’s just based on new listings, not tenants already in a contract, and only represents what the landlord asked for, not what the tenants actually signed.
Instead, the ONS has been following up on tenants and rental properties that it originally visited in February 2022. This year, they asked these same tenants if their rent had gone up and, if so, how much. On both these measures, London comes out the worst in the country.
For starters, two-thirds of privately rented properties in London had experienced a price increase since the last visit. In England as a whole this figure was just 50%, and as low as 28% in the North West of England. So don’t hold out hope your landlord will keep your rent as is.
Of those that saw a rent increase in London, the average annual increase was 12%. It’s likely the biggest annual hike for some time — a year ago rents went up by a comparatively meagre 4.7%. And that’s if you’re lucky: the ONS also found that one in ten Londoners had seen a rent increase of over 20%. By contrast, the average figure for England was 9.7%.
What’s particularly grim is that these figures reveal that typical rent increases in London are running above inflation, which in February was 10.4%. So even if a Londoner manages to get an inflation-busting pay rise this year (🤞), a bigger share of their income is going to get gobbled up on rent. Just when we thought renting in the capital couldn’t get much worse…
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