“What conditions will Londoners tolerate for reasonably-priced central accommodation?”
I have been renting places to live ever since moving out of Mum’s over 10 years ago. One house I was in for a while as a student had a permanently flooded hallway, in one place my bedroom was next to a practicing trombonist, another mouldy one-bed had rats in the ceiling. Even where I am now the door handles keep falling off and most mornings I’m jolted awake by the harmonies of the screaming woman who lives below. Of my many dwellings none have been perfect and few have even been adequate but like so many born within the last 30 shitty years I appear trapped, for the time being at least, in this cyclical renting process whereabouts a massive chunk of my wages each month goes to a man I don’t know for the continued permission to crash in his spare rooms.
It could be worse of course, I could be in London where the prices are twice as high for a property twice as lowly. A pleasant writer, Joel Golby, does well documenting them in his series of London Rental Opportunities of the Week, a limitless source of unwindowed chambers with the oven in the bathroom for £950 pcm.
To see how crushing London’s housing market has become I ran a brief experiment last Spring – I had no intention to list it as part of this blog but I’ve recently had the urge to start compiling previous antics here on Fat Prose for posterity and I don’t really know why, maybe it’s my Brexit fear coming out in weird ways or I’m subconsciously dying or something.
Calling myself Matt Daman (I originally intended for this to read slyly as “Matt the man”, but only once I’d made the new fake email address did I see obviously it just looks like Matt Damon), I placed an advert on Gumtree for a spacious room to let in a houseshare just north of Camden. The rub would be that unfortunately the room was haunted, with each applicant on the receiving end of a different paranormal foible. I hoped to see, less than a hundred years since you could outright buy an inner-city house for ten grand, what we were willing to endure these days for a temporary roof and toilet close to a Pret.
Gumtree banned my account before I could amass any more data but I gathered enough to confirm my fears: it is now so tough to find an affordable, half-decent room that most people will endure almost anything if it means someplace to live. Remember, even if the house-hunters above didn’t necessarily believe Daman’s occult warnings, that just means the majority were still happy to cohabit with someone who is clearly mental, sharing bills and fridge-space with a ping-ponging banana-bread-enthusiast who speaks of cursed mirrors and lethal cats (and doesn’t even call them ‘The Four Pawsmen of the Apocalypse’ as he clearly should have).
Only as I type this up now do I see another interesting conclusion. You don’t much see the “haunted house” as a horror trope any longer, that was more popular among baby boomers who could buy their own place at 16 from the salaries of a few newspaper rounds. Most nowadays who might watch a film in which a family must spend a weekend in a haunted house would simply be envious: look how big it is, look how separate the kitchen and living area are, look at the size of that ominously-huge dining room! I’ve never even rented anywhere with a dining room before! You can’t hear your neighbours flushing their toilets and you’re not subject to surprise flat inspections or rent increases, and in turn you just have to learn to live with the portraits watching you and the occasional elevator full of blood.