25 Feb 2015

Generation rent: a family trapped by lack of housing stock

Channel 4 News meets a family trapped in a rental dilemma: they could buy their current flat but it’s now too small for them, so is their dream of a home of their own now out of reach?

The number of 25-34-year-olds privately renting has more than doubled in a decade, rising from 21 per cent to 48 per cent, according to new government figures.

Over the same period the number of them buying homes with a mortgage fell from 55.6 per cent to 33.7 per cent.

Generation rent has become squeezed by property prices, high private rents preventing them from saving, and a lack of suitable social housing.

Too many tenants, not enough homes

The new figures also show that the social rented sector cannot cope with demand.

With 1.4m people on the waiting list for a local authority home but only 840 built in the 12 months up to December 2014, housing is a significant electoral issue for families across Britain.

One of those feeling squeezed is Ebru Misirli and her young family. In the photograph above is her partner Malcolm Chichester and their children, eldest Jada, Tylan and Tre-Kyrll.

Both Malcolm and Ebru work: Malcolm is full time on a wage just below the average salary and Ebru works part time on £7,000 per year.

But there are only two bedrooms in their local authority family flat in Enfield North.

Ebru Misirli has been on the housing list for several years, but with the birth of her third child the house has become so overcrowded that her partner lives with his parents.

We want to live as a family Malcolm Chichester

In Enfield North the housing waiting list has 2,237 on it. This is down from 6,525 during 2010 – but a government report identified the general fall in waiting lists as being largely due to councils changing criteria.

“In a few months Jada will have to move into the bedroom with Ebru [her mother], so that the little one can go and sleep with his brother. So when that happens there’s no room for me. I can’t sleep in the living room because it’s a family room and the kids play in here.” Malcolm told Channel 4 News.

The couple came close to having a big enough home for Malcolm to move back into when they had a successful bid for a property accepted, only for it to be withdrawn due to an error.

“Am I really supposed to be sharing (a room) with my daughter?” Ebru asks, but the constraints on local authorities mean the family are just one out of a million and a half others in the same position.

Malcolm hopes that one of the benefits of living with his mother is that he can save enough money so that he and Ebru can put down a deposit down on a house, even though at present Ebru has a right to buy her current council property.

“Based on a valuation it would cost me £460 a month and I don’t need a deposit. The problem is it’s too small and for three years I cannot rent or resell.”

Malcolm recognises the benefits of right to buy, but identifies it as the main reason behind the lack of suitable accommodation for them: “The right to buy at a discounted price is fantastic.

“The downside is that for the remaining council tenants it reduces the selection of properties they are allowed to bid or be selected for and so therefore six months ago there may have been a property that we may have been able to bid on, but now it’s off the market because of right to buy.”

The cost of private renting

Research by the shadow housing minister Emma Reynolds found that for every 21 houses sold off under right to buy just one was built.

The obvious solution seems to be that the couple should rent privately but that leaves them in a difficult position. The couple estimate for the appropriate sized house in the private rental market housing they would need to pay £1,200 a month, and even this is for properties Ebru says are at the lower end.

Labour have announced plans to help private renters by putting a cap on future rent increases, but this does not help the couple. Privately renting jointly would also mean the couple’s combined income would make them ineligible for housing benefit.

Ebru says she could work full time, which would take her salary to £15,000, but that the extra days of work would not cover the cost of the childcare she currently does herself.

The couple say private renting is the most likely solution to getting a bigger house, but this would mean bypassing their right to buy and leave them renting for the foreseeable future.

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