by Emily Lyndon, South East London Socialist Party
Fourteen London MPs are renting out their homes in London in order to claim rent on their parliamentary expenses. In total, 18% of MPs have declared themselves landlords; this is compared to just 3% of the UK adult population.
I am living in London to complete a year of teacher training and had to spend around twelve weeks looking for a place to live. I was checking websites and sending out messages daily and the sheer volume of applicants meant that for every 20 or so messages I sent, I received one or two responses back, often to say that the room was no longer available.
It was a gruelling process that involved sending an ‘about me’ over and over again to a stranger online. During the search I found one suitable property in my price range that would accept me as a mature student living off a maintenance loan. These difficulties are not uncommon.
I now live in a guardianship, essentially as live-in security, in a room that upon viewing had eight people competing for the same ‘opportunity’.
I’m now in a position where I feel relieved and grateful for even finding a room, even though that room is higher than my budget and further away from where I wanted to be! This begs the questions: why are people forced into competing for sub-par housing in a country where members of parliament are afforded access to housing at taxpayers’ expense?
Why must the most vulnerable members of our community have limited access to housing when MPs earning over double the average UK workers’ salary have access to more than one home in London?
Councils have the power to make change. The majority of councils in London are run by Labour, if they chose to they could use their powers to register private landlords to prevent restrictive referencing and housing benefit exemptions. By using borrowing powers and reserves, councils could invest in building decent, safe council homes that workers and students can afford.
This is the approach that the Socialist Party fights for as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition. By preparing to stand candidates in the council elections next May we will continue to engage with our communities, highlighting that the oppressive measures of landlords, backed up by councils and the government, can be fought when we work in solidarity.