Another result of London’s failed housing system – increased child poverty

Figures produced by the End Child Poverty Coalition this week show distressing levels of child poverty after housing costs are included, including within much of London.

The data breaks down levels of child poverty by parliamentary constituency, local authority, and local ward level, and shows that of the twenty constituencies with the highest levels of child poverty, seven are in London, while 11 out of 20 of the highest figures at local authority level are also in the capital.

Low pay and an insufficient social security system will all contribute to enduring levels of poverty throughout the country, but within the UK’s richest city, housing costs also significantly contribute to driving high levels of Londoners into poverty, even in the capital’s wealthier boroughs.

By comparing levels of child poverty before and after housing costs, we see that in Tower Hamlets child poverty leaps from 28.15% across the borough to 43.49%, in Islington from 23.71% to 37.67%, and in Westminster from 23.95% to 37.67%.

Indeed, a large majority of London boroughs see their levels of child poverty rise by at least ten percentage points once housing costs are included, with many seeing increases of just below 10%.

Considering the figures at a constituency level, we also see that of the ten areas with the highest levels of child poverty in London, seven of these areas fall within the ten highest renter populations across the country, per the 2011 census, and mapped out in our Renter Power report from 2015.

London Parliamentary Constituency

% Child Poverty
(After Housing Costs)

Poplar and Limehouse

43.70%

Bethnal Green and Bow

43.20%

Hackney South and Shoreditch

40.90%

Westminster North

40.60%

Vauxhall

39.60%

Bermondsey and Old Southwark

39.50%

Edmonton

39.20%

Islington South and Finsbury

38.90%

Camberwell and Peckham

38.70%

Tottenham

38.40%

Now we don’t have all the data needed to make a stronger link between tenure and poverty, but it is undeniable from these figures that housing costs push high levels of children into poverty, and this is most likely where there are also high levels of private rented accommodation.

With the average monthly rent in London’s private rented sector standing at £1,452 in the first quarter of 2016, compared with weekly affordable rents from 2015 data of £104.94 (council – see table 702) or £121.41 (social housing provider – see table 704), we can see how much more difficult to cope as a private renter in London.

This will only get worse as those on local housing allowance (already only covering the 30% lowest rents in London) will see the benefit frozen until 2020, while recent forecasts suggest a 24.5% rise in private rents up to 2021 and work done by Shelter last year exposing the growing affordability gap for private renters claiming LHA.

Only government intervention can stop this. Either we need a benefits system that properly reflects the huge costs of private renting in London, or we need to consider how to reduce those costs. Housebuilding is not a fix-all solution, and won’t impact most of the private rented sector.

If government is serious about addressing child poverty, mass investment in social housing is needed, and London needs to start investigating rent controls as soon as possible, or we will see some areas of London where half of all children live in poverty.

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