To solve London's housing crisis, we should move Parliament to Hull

Maybe we could put them here? The Deep Aquarium, Hull. Image: Skyride2688/Wikimedia Commons.

As the housing crisis rages, forcing renters to choose between heating, eating and paying the rent, our elected representatives are snuggled up in their second homes on the taxpayer’s largesse.

In 2013, 335 MPs claimed more than £5m in rent allowances that enabled them to live in central London. This is yet another aspect of their jobs that cocoons them from the reality of life for ordinary constituents who bear the brunt of austerity. It’s no surprise that the campaign for a better deal for renters isn’t gaining much traction in Parliament, when most MPs’ only experience of the private rented sector is finding out what £20,000 will get you in London.

So, Generation Rent has a suggestion: move Parliament out of Westminster to a less expensive part of the country. At £325 per month, the median cost of a one-bed property in Hull is the cheapest in England. Four hundred MPs renting at this level will cost less than a third of the current rent bill. Add in lower employment costs outside London and that gives savings over five years of £120m – plus a windfall from the sale of Portcullis House. And Hull would gain at least 3000 badly-needed jobs.

Once the Palace of Westminster lies empty, it can start doing its bit to solve the housing crisis. Generation Rent supporter Jay Morton has designed us a new look Parliament which would house 364 flats, meeting Westminster council’s annual affordable housing target in one go. These flats would be made available to rent at the local housing allowance level, finally providing Londoners with genuinely affordable new homes.

The proposed new Westminster Court housing development. Click to expand. 

The courtyards throughout the Parliamentary estate would give the flats plenty of daylight, plus provide space for play and leisure facilities for the new community. The debating chambers would make nice swimming pools. And we’ll keep some of the more historical parts as a museum.

Sadly, this is probably not going to happen. But in making this proposal, we want to make a serious point.

The proposal is a reminder to MPs – and everyone who wants to be one in May – that they enjoy a very privileged position in relation to their constituents. They haven’t borne any austerity – and the prospect of them doing so by uprooting them from London should give them the humility to take seriously their responsibility to make life better for those of us without £20,000 a year rent allowances.


Private renters have very little security of tenure. They spend far more of their income on housing costs than social renters and home owners. Ad they are more likely to live in despair, disrepair and unhealthy conditions. Private renting is currently designed to favour the people who invest in it rather than their customers – and this needs urgent change.

Every time May’s new parliamentarians retire well-fed to their warm second bed after a day in the Commons, they should remember how lucky they are and how much renting needs to change for those who are turning in for the night cold and hungry.

Dan Wilson Craw is head of communications for Generation Rent.

Images: Jay Morton.

 
 
 
 

CityMetric is now City Monitor! Come see us at our new home

City Monitor is now live in beta at citymonitor.ai.

CityMetric is now City Monitor, a name that reflects both a ramping up of our ambitions as well as our membership in a network of like-minded publications from New Statesman Media Group. Our new site is now live in beta, so please visit us there going forward. Here’s what CityMetric readers should know about this exciting transition.  

Regular CityMetric readers may have already noticed a few changes around here since the spring. CityMetric’s beloved founding editor, Jonn Elledge, has moved on to some new adventures, and a new team has formed to take the site into the future. It’s led by yours truly – I’m Sommer Mathis, the editor-in-chief of City Monitor. Hello!

My background includes having served as the founding editor of CityLab, editor-in-chief of Atlas Obscura, and editor-in-chief of DCist, a local news publication in the District of Columbia. I’ve been reporting on and writing about cities in one way or another for the past 15 years. To me, there is no more important story in the world right now than how cities are changing and adapting to an increasingly challenging global landscape. The majority of the world’s population lives in cities, and if we’re ever going to be able to tackle the most pressing issues currently facing our planet – the climate emergency, rising inequality, the Covid-19 pandemic ­­­– cities are going to have to lead the way.

That’s why City Monitor is now a global publication dedicated to the future of cities everywhere – not just in the UK (nor for that matter just in the US, where I live). Our mission is to help our readers, many of whom are in leadership positions around the globe, navigate how cities are changing and discover what’s next in the world of urban policy. We’ll do that through original reporting, expert opinion and most crucially, a data-driven approach that emphasises evidence and rigorous analysis. We want to arm local decision-makers and those they work in concert with – whether that’s elected officials, bureaucratic leaders, policy advocates, neighbourhood activists, academics and researchers, entrepreneurs, or plain-old engaged citizens – with real insights and potential answers to tough problems. Subjects we cover include transportation, infrastructure, housing, urban design, public safety, the environment, the economy, and much more.

The City Monitor team is made up of some of the most experienced urban policy journalists in the world. Our managing editor is Adam Sneed, also a CityLab alum where he served as a senior associate editor. Before that he was a technology reporter at Politico. Allison Arieff is City Monitor’s senior editor. She was previously editorial director of the urban planning and policy think tank SPUR, as well as a contributing columnist for The New York Times. Staff writer Jake Blumgart most recently covered development, housing and politics for WHYY, the local public radio station in Philadelphia. And our data reporter is Alexandra Kanik, whose previous roles include data reporting for Louisville Public Media in Kentucky and PublicSource in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Our team will continue to grow in the coming weeks, and we’ll also be collaborating closely with our editorial colleagues across New Statesman Media Group. In fact, we’re launching a whole network of new publications, covering topics such as the clean energy transition, foreign direct investment, technology, banks and more. Many of these sectors will frequently overlap with our cities coverage, and a key part of our plan is make the most of the expertise that all of these newsrooms combined will bring to bear on our journalism.

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As for CityMetric, some of its archives have already been moved over to the new website, and the rest will follow not long after. If you’re looking for a favourite piece from CityMetric’s past, for a time you’ll still be able to find it here, but before long the whole archive will move over to City Monitor.

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I want to thank and congratulate Jonn Elledge on a brilliant run. Everything we do from here on out will be building on the legacy of his work, and the community that he built here at CityMetric. Cheers, Jonn!

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Sommer Mathis is editor-in-chief of City Monitor.