No haven in Hackney: census 2011 reveals housing divide

Tony Gosling tony at
Wed Dec 12 00:53:37 GMT 2012

No haven in Hackney: census 2011 reveals housing divide

Data shows more people in England and Wales are 
renting, with London borough having lowest percentage of homeowners
Maev Kennedy
The Guardian, Tuesday 11 December 2012 18.14 GMT

Hackney residents are seeing richer people moving 
into the borough after being priced out elsewhere 
in London. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

Grace Santos is not surprised the census has 
exposed Hackney as the place with the lowest 
percentage of mortgage-free homeowners in England and Wales.

In a nearby estate agent's window in the east 
London borough, which has the lowest proportion 
of residents who own their homes outright, the 
cheapest one-bedroom flat – a "character 
property" over a shop – is £190,000 while the cheapest rent is £257 a week.

"Before, you could find a house to buy here very 
easily, but now it is very expensive," she said. 
"Rich people are coming here now because they 
think it is posh, but it is not posh. I don't 
know what young people can do, where they will live."

The 2011 census reveals a widening divide in the 
housing market: more people are renting, while 
the cohort of homeowners is ageing, paying off 
their mortgages and more likely to own their homes mortgage-free.

For years after moving here Santos, who is almost 
77 and originally from Portugal, lived in a 
privately rented flat with no bathroom. There was 
an outside toilet, and she could shower at her work in a London hotel.

"When I had cancer for the second time my social 
worker said I must have a bathroom," she said. 
"So now I live in a council flat and I have a 
bathroom, but it is very expensive to heat, it 
could cost £400 a month this winter."

In the park opposite Meynell Crescent, an 
immaculate curve of mainly owner-occupied 
Victorian houses, Jennie Wood and Cheryl Smith 
were counting their blessings. An NHS nurse and 
midwife, they both rent in a smart block of 
keyworkers' flats. It is big enough for them to 
keep their dogs and neither could ever afford to 
rent the flats opposite or even buy in the area.

Both accept that if they want to buy they will 
have to find jobs outside London. "Many of my 
colleagues are doing that already," Smith said. 
"I just don't understand how anyone can get on to 
the property ladder in London any longer."

Helena Reynolds and Daniel West were heading home 
from the council housing office, with her 
children Natasha, three, and Ben, four, to West's 
one-bedroom flat. They are desperate to move 
somewhere bigger: their baby was due last Friday.

Living on benefits, they see no possibility of 
ever being able to rent privately, never mind 
buy, in Hackney or anywhere in London. All around 
them they see young but richer people moving in 
after being priced out of other areas. "If I was 
ever to try, I'd head for the coast," West said. 
"All of London is just ridiculous now."

Film and TV director Tom Shankland scrambled on 
to the ladder 10 years ago when he realised he 
could no longer afford to buy in Stoke Newington 
where he was living, and instead bought a 
two-bedroom flat elsewhere in Hackney.

He couldn't afford it now, or a house, but he 
loves the area even though he fears for the 
demise of the mix of people and cultures that 
attracted him. "It's a cliche, but really all human life is here."
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