The secret tenant: a wish list for all those priced-out young Londoners

It is possible to find Zone 2 rentals in London for less than £500 a month, but you have to be creative.
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I set out primarily to assess whether it was possible for a young, economically active individual like me to live within the rental system on such a low budget. I also wanted to discover whether any policies are in place to tackle the issue of the core workforce being priced out of central London.
A windowless Hampstead office block was my first billet, before I tried shared living at The Camden Collective, then a canal boat in Hackney, and a flat-pack home in Wimbledon. Then I became a security guard in Hammersmith, joined a family in a housing co-op in Southwark, and finally took to the road in a horsebox.
Temporary vs Permanent
Living within the price points I was set was possible, but I had to get creative and accept the rough with the smooth, and all the options I tried lacked permanence. While the housing co-operative is certainly one answer, its target audience is not young professionals.

The only real long-term solution I found is the model adopted by The Camden Collective. By creating smaller, functional and more efficient units, they can provide affordable accommodation. However, it is operating as a house of multiple occupancy rather than a pure residential model. It would be ideal if it were possible to adopt the model in a residential block.
My time at the collective and later at the flat-pack Y:Cube taught me the size of the unit doesn’t matter much to many people in my age group who, like me, prioritise location and price, in that order. However, Knight Frank’s tenant survey shows that for 65 per cent, affordability is the key concern followed by location, with 23 per cent.
Current minimum space standards restrict developers from building one-bedroom units for two people of less than 50sq m, but this means no new smaller rental units in the centre for a young city-based workforce. My most enjoyable homes were those closest to my work, or with a decent transport link and green space nearby.

Renting within a community was a good experience. Although I had issues with guardian schemes, they were a great place for meeting like-minded young people living and working in London at the same stage in their careers. If it is the right mix of tenants it works and is enjoyable.
Young people today really enjoy good design. If you create homes which replicate student digs, they will be treated as such, and you will struggle to fill them. For example, the Y:Cube, combining good design with efficient use of space, may well prove to be much better looked after and generate healthy demand.
For more from Tim and to watch videos of his assignment, visit
Follow Tim on Twitter @lowecostliving, including updates in the new year, or see @knightfrank.
The original version of this feature appeared in Estates Gazette.


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