London’s housing market is failing the capital’s workers: We can't make this crisis someone else's problem

Campbell Robb
Rents take up on average 60 per cent of London tenants' incomes (Source: Getty)

With house prices a staggering 13 times the average London wage, and rents taking up on average 60 per cent of London tenants' incomes, the prospect of finding an affordable place to live is slipping further out of reach for many of the capital’s four million-strong workforce.

As the housing crisis deepens, workers from across the income scale have found themselves affected, and the threat to the capital’s businesses is clear. The success and vibrancy of London’s business community is dependent upon its ability to attract new talent. But as accommodation costs become ever-more prohibitive, there is a real danger that key workers will be driven out of London or deterred from moving here in the first place.

There’s plenty of research pointing to the looming threat to London’s workforce. London First recently found that as many as four out of five Londoners in their 20s have considered leaving the capital for good due to rising housing costs. And it isn’t just 20-somethings who are worried; Shelter research has found that 86 per cent of London parents fear their children will be forced to move out of the capital.

Employees are also being required to commute further and longer, as they go in search of reasonable rents and houses they might actually afford one day. These prolonged journeys to work can have their own negative impact on business; from fatigued employees who are less productive, to increased staff turnover driven by fed-up commuters seeking work closer to home.

We know from our own study of private renters in the capital – the largest of its kind – that three in five working London renters want to live in an area with cheaper rents, but are trapped by expensive transport costs. The double dilemma of sky high housing costs and soaring season tickets is making London a less attractive and increasingly implausible place to work.

From the young professionals working towards an astronomical deposit, to the parents on zero hours contracts struggling to keep up with continuous rent increases, London’s housing problems are touching everyone.

This year marks Shelter’s fiftieth birthday and, despite decades of fighting bad housing and homelessness in the capital, we’re in the grip of another housing crisis. The sad fact is that any one of us could become homeless, and for the sake of future generations we cannot make this crisis someone else’s problem. Together, we all face the consequences when our capital’s homes are simply not good enough. And together, we can fix it.

There will be no birthday celebration until we all have a place to call home, but until that day you can help Shelter to be there for all those who need us. For a fun way to get fit and get involved, join me and hundreds of other Londoners running up the 932 steps of Tower 42 for Shelter’s Vertical Rush – the UK’s tallest tower-running challenge.

Campbell will be taking part in Shelter’s Vertical Rush challenge event at Tower 42 on Tuesday 8 March. Visit for details.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

Related articles