Where are London’s real no go areas?

Borough Market in happier times. Image: Getty.

Over the weekend, in the wake of the horrific attack on London Bridge, this happened:

Which is odd, because I've lived inside the M25 pretty much my entire life, and waste much of my spare time on long, pointless walks across town, and I have never been aware of encountering a single no go area. Honestly: sink estates; industrial wastelands, Mayfair... They’re all basically fine, in my experience, and if I’m not scared I can’t for the life of me imagine why the police would be.

I'm not alone in this. Yesterday, my podcast co-host Stephanie - who is great, and who you should all follow on Twitter to make up for the fact I'm about to shamelessly recycle her tweets – tweeted this:

 

Also, this:

 

A lot of people clearly felt strongly about a certain underwhelming restaurant chain.

 

(A footnote: Stephanie, who is the funniest person in London, said it was fine for me to use her tweets providing I called her the funniest person in London*. So.)

Anyway. Yesterday I did that embarrassing thing where I read Steph's tweets, forgot I'd read them, and then fifteen minutes later tweeted something similar as if they were my own idea because I'm basically a terrible person. Here was my effort.

 

(Gratifyingly for Stephanie, you will note that I did not receive the numbers she did.)

My search continued:

 

Here, just for information, is a map of the no go areas of South London:

Click to expand, but don’t say we didn't warn you.

Eventually, I found a couple:

Seriously, the queues at the bar are insane, and if you don't manage to get a drink you're basically just sitting in a multi storey car park. (Note for non-Londoners: this is literally true.)

There's also this:

Which is a vexingly popular tourist attraction in Leicester Square, at which no actual Londoner would ever be seen dead.

Others had their own ideas. South London bitterness was a theme:

So was north London snobbery:

 

For some reason, people really don’t think much of the remarkably anodyne north London suburb of Palmers Green:

Honestly, for a place that literally nobody as ever heard of, it attracted a surprising amount of ire.

A number of people mentioned the West End at Christmas:

The horror! The horror!

 

The very worst London area of all, though, a place you should absolutely never go to if you can possibly avoid it, turned out to be south of the river:

 

Probably because of one particular night spot.

 

Anyway. If you can think of other terrifying no go areas in London, do feel free to tweet me. And also, follow Stephanie – she is, you'll recall, the funniest person in London.

*She also said I wasn't allowed to say that she'd told me to do this.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and also has a Facebook page now for some reason. 

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“Without rent control we can’t hope to solve London’s housing crisis”

You BET! Oh GOD. Image: Getty.

Today, the mayor of London called for new powers to introduce rent controls in London. With ever increasing rents swallowing more of people’s income and driving poverty, the free market has clearly failed to provide affordable homes for Londoners. 

Created in 1988, the modern private rented sector was designed primarily to attract investment, with the balance of power weighted almost entirely in landlords’ favour. As social housing stock has been eroded, with more than 1 million fewer social rented homes today compared to 1980, and as the financialisation of homes has driven up house prices, more and more people are getting trapped private renting. In 1990 just 11 per cent of households in London rented privately, but by 2017 this figure had grown to 27 per cent; it is also home to an increasing number of families and older people. 

When I first moved to London, I spent years spending well over 50 per cent of my income on rent. Even without any dependent to support, after essentials my disposable income was vanishingly small. London has the highest rent to income ratio of any region, and the highest proportion of households spending over a third of their income on rent. High rents limit people’s lives, and in London this has become a major driver of poverty and inequality. In the three years leading up to 2015-16, 960,000 private renters were living in poverty, and over half of children growing up in private rented housing are living in poverty.

So carefully designed rent controls therefore have the potential to reduce poverty and may also contribute over time to the reduction of the housing benefit bill (although any housing bill reductions have to come after an expansion of the system, which has been subject to brutal cuts over the last decade). Rent controls may also support London’s employers, two-thirds of whom are struggling to recruit entry-level staff because of the shortage of affordable homes. 

It’s obvious that London rents are far too high, and now an increasing number of voices are calling for rent controls as part of the solution: 68 per cent of Londoners are in favour, and a growing renters’ movement has emerged. Groups like the London Renters Union have already secured a massive victory in the outlawing of section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions. But without rent control, landlords can still unfairly get rid of tenants by jacking up rents.


At the New Economics Foundation we’ve been working with the Mayor of London and the Greater London Authority to research what kind of rent control would work in London. Rent controls are often polarising in the UK but are commonplace elsewhere. New York controls rents on many properties, and Berlin has just introduced a five year “rental lid”, with the mayor citing a desire to not become “like London” as a motivation for the policy. 

A rent control that helps to solve London’s housing crisis would need to meet several criteria. Since rents have risen three times faster than average wages since 2010, rent control should initially brings rents down. Our research found that a 1 per cent reduction in rents for four years could lead to 20 per cent cheaper rents compared to where they would be otherwise. London also needs a rent control both within and between tenancies because otherwise landlords can just reset rents when tenancies end.

Without rent control we can’t hope to solve London’s housing crisis – but it’s not without risk. Decreases in landlord profits could encourage current landlords to exit the sector and discourage new ones from entering it. And a sharp reduction in the supply of privately rented homes would severely reduce housing options for Londoners, whilst reducing incentives for landlords to maintain and improve their properties.

Rent controls should be introduced in a stepped way to minimise risks for tenants. And we need more information on landlords, rents, and their business models in order to design a rent control which avoids unintended consequences.

Rent controls are also not a silver bullet. They need to be part of a package of solutions to London’s housing affordability crisis, including a large scale increase in social housebuilding and an improvement in housing benefit. However, private renting will be part of London’s housing system for some time to come, and the scale of the affordability crisis in London means that the question of rent controls is no longer “if”, but increasingly “how”. 

Joe Beswick is head of housing & land at the New Economics Foundation.