Renters left behind by attempts to fix the housing crisis

Apr 01, 2015 9:44 AM

Serial renter and Splittable contributor Tom Bowers explains what motivated him to make renting better.

I am, among many things, a member of generation rent. With my A levels burning a hole in my back pocket I took the logical step out of my family home on the outskirts of Liverpool and took up residence at university. I moved into a three-storey halls of residence, which was heated by a gas oil burner that made all of my belongings smell of paraffin. "All your clothes stink", my mum would say whenever I came home, "even your laptop smells".  I took no notice; all I could smell was freedom. 

Once I made it to second year I was booted off campus and told to find my own accommodation. With no education as to how to do this I found safety in numbers in an eight-bedroom house close to the university with a toilet in the living room. A quite unique addition to any living room that we made strict rules about how and when to use.

We had no idea what we were walking into, all we wanted as a roof above our heads and Sky Sports. What we ended up with was a poorly refurbished terrace house with mushrooms growing through the bath plug, rats in the kitchen and a glass plate in the ceiling which sporadically decided to come loose from the attic and fall down three flights of stairs. "Was anyone injured?" My landlord asked when I rang him to complain. I replied that luckily we had all been in our rooms at the time, and the phone went dead.

Now, I’m not here to shirk all of the blame for this: eight 20 year old lads living under the same roof and learning how to clean up after themselves for the first time in their lives is not going to go seamlessly. After we moved out, the whole house was gutted and refurbished – this was not surprising to any of us.

So now I’m older and wiser, I’ve lived in different parts of the country and run up against the same problems time and time again. Rogue landlords, poor property management and a system that works against renters rather than for them. We’re not seen as tenants, we’re seen as cash cows.

There are 11 million people in the UK who now rent, half of them under the age of 34. This wouldn’t be such a bad thing if there were sufficient protections for tenants. What’s being done about it? In short, not a lot. The 2015 spring budget was an opportunity for George Osborne to show support for renters, but he didn't take it.

Instead he chose to expand the Help to Buy scheme to allow more people to get a foot on the housing ladder. Fair enough, but the vast majority of renters who have no hope of being able to afford a deposit anytime soon are left stood wondering, when is it our turn?

What Osborne did offer was more lenience for those wishing to sub-let their rented accommodation on a short term basis - great for those struggling with irregular incomes or looking to get in on the AirBnB boom. It does little else to ease the worries of other renters across the country.

The root problem still isn’t being addressed; there aren’t enough houses across the UK to go around. Help to Buy pushes up demand and in turn prices soar higher, leaving more people stranded on the rental market being screwed by landlords who take what they can get out of a desperate market because they’re allowed to do so. Renters are continuingly being left to grin and bear it as the situation becomes worse.