Private Rented Sector

Part of Opposition Day — [2nd Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 2:02 pm on 25th June 2014.

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Photo of John Martin McDonnell John Martin McDonnell Labour, Hayes and Harlington 2:02 pm, 25th June 2014

I congratulate my hon. Friend on achieving that advance. It is difficult in many other areas, where we do not have the co-operation of the local authority. I have started turning up at evictions now, to negotiate with estate agents and others and the bailiffs. As many hon. Members will know, that can be quite confrontational.

I have lived and worked in my constituency and represented it in different forms for nearly 40 years. When I arrived there 40 years ago, if someone wanted a house, they would go to the council and there would be council housing. There was a council housing waiting list, but it was not that long. Most of those council houses were sold off. Ironically, a letter went out from Hillingdon council two weeks ago seeking to lease back the council properties that it sold 20 years ago, to rent those out to people. It is bizarre how the cycle turns.

The other form of housing in my area was owner-occupation. There was little private rented accommodation at the time, but the level of wages was such that mortgages were available. Mortgages were also available through local authorities. The Greater London council a mortgage scheme with a relatively cheap rent. Now, unfortunately, even though my area has high levels of employment, the pay is such that people cannot afford owner-occupation. The average price of a property in my borough is £318,000, which is way out of the reach of people in my constituency on average pay—between £12,000 and £20,000. They are therefore forced into the private rented sector.

The private rented sector has expanded, but insufficiently. In my constituency, the cost of a family property in the private sector ranges from £1,200 to £1,600, and in some instances up to £2,000, a month. That is simply unaffordable. Even if people overcome the challenge of getting into the private rented sector, they are faced, as we heard earlier, with discrimination against anyone on benefits being able to rent a property. There is ghettoisation going on, organised by the landlords and the agents—“That area or that property isn’t suitable for you because you’re on benefits.”

People go through all the experiences about which I have expressed concern—having to find the money up front, the heavy charges imposed by the agents—and it forces some into penury. I have many constituents who go to payday loan agencies to borrow the money to try to get a roof over their heads.