The end of housing and the last Londoner: Part three

They’re lovely people, the family currently in your future front room.


Just how rough it’s got in the private rented sector registered with me during a phone call to an estate agent.

I was told that viewing the property I was interested in was going to be tricky because there were sitting tenants currently inside who had to be informed before I could view.

“They’re lovely tenants,” the estate agents said.

The enticement was clear: I can either buy knowing they will be served notice to quit or I can buy their contract and join the landlord industry.

Either help make them homeless or become the owner of their future. So far I’ve been offered the “opportunity” to view four properties with the tenants still in them.

An NLP expert (Neuro Linguisitic Persuasion) can smooth my conscious by pointing out, of course, the real choice has been made by the current landlord and their circumstances. And the tenants accepted their fate when they made the “choice” to live there.

But the real moral maze is about what happens to those sitting tenants.

Groups like Generation Rent, Shelter and others have campaigned for the outlawing of short-term tenancies. And they are right to.

On a basic level, it’s the tenants’ children’s education and jobs that are at risk. If nothing else, it’s disruptive and stressful when the owner of a property can serve three months’ notice at any time.

As an interesting sidebar, I’m being sent a lot of details for properties that are ex-buy-to-lets. The exodus has clearly begun.

The author John Steinbeck chronicled the effects of the 1930s Depression among America’s poor who became known as Okies – people with insecure work who were pushed on from once place to the next with their families.

Our modern-day Okies are struggling families with uncertain job prospects who have little chance of getting on the housing ladder.

When policy people talk about market failure, these are the people on the front line.

And they are less likely to vote because of the disruption or because they haven’t been heard and have lost faith in the political system.

It’s very telling that the only housing issue so far debated in the national general election campaigns has been around the government taking a share of house sale profits to fund care costs for older people.

The lives of private renters have been reduced to a sub-clause in a contract with little choice other than more of the same. It’s no way to live and indefensible.

A society is only as good as the outcomes for the most vulnerable.

Politicians are only part of the problem and blaming them is an easy way of avoiding our own responsibility: a good society is about everyone’s values not value and cost.

*The blog title is derived from The End of History and the Last Man by Francis Fukuyama

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