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I will pay tribute to our hon. Friend Ms Buck shortly, but what my hon. Friend Dr Huq says is very important. I have not mentioned mental health in this speech, because it is already too long, as most people can see. However, every time I hold an advice surgery, 80% of my casework is based on housing. When I deal with housing casework, people say, “Well, I have asthma”, or this or that problem medically, and then, “As a result, I have had mental health problems,” so there is a clear link between the housing conditions that someone lives in and the mental health problems that they may develop. I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend and I hope that the Minister will address this topic.
More and more people are growing old in substandard rented accommodation, and that shines a light on the fact that, as a country, we do not take private renting seriously. Five million people in the UK live in the private rented sector, which is an enormous number, up from 2.8 million in 2007. The proportion of renting households in London, where my hon. Friend and I are MPs, is expected to grow to 40% of the total in five years’ time. Again, these are staggering figures, yet I feel that too often as politicians, and as a Government, we see renting as nothing more than a stepping stone to home ownership. While the aspiration to own a home is common among us, including many of my constituents, the obscene cost of housing, especially in London, puts this dream well out of reach for the hundreds of thousands of private renters who are living on the breadline and the 63% who say that they have no savings at all. We have to do more to tackle the problem facing private renters. The economic and social crisis that we face as a result of coronavirus is shining a light on how many low-income private renters’ lives are fragile, and it lends greater urgency—and maybe provides an opportunity—to address this and provide them with the security and safety that they need.
I want to talk a bit about my constituency of Hampstead and Kilburn, because we have one of the largest proportions of people who live in private rented houses in the country—30% of my constituency privately rents. The more than doubling of the private rented sector over the last 20 years has meant that in the Borough of Camden, which I live in, that type of tenure is now only slightly smaller than the owner-occupied sector. Ahead of this debate, I emailed my constituents to ask them for their experiences and thoughts about it. I was overwhelmed by the number of people who emailed to talk about their experience and how important this issue was to them. Many made the point that privately renting is not a short-term solution for them. They will have to do it for the rest of their lives, and therefore, they feel very passionately that we as politicians should tackle the problems that come with it.
The No. 1 thing that came up over and over again is how unaffordable renting in London is. That came out loud and clear and I am sure that my hon. Friend—a London Member—will recognise that. Renters in Camden face the fourth highest rents in the whole country. The median monthly rent for a two-bedroom flat is over £2,000. That reflects the dramatic growth in rents that we have seen in the last decade, far outstripping any rise in earnings that my constituents may have had.