With the upcoming election looming, I felt I wanted to share the experiences I’ve had with my local MPs and discuss changes that I think NEED to happen.
I have enjoyed seeing young people go out and register to vote in their thousands; this is just what we need. Young people ARE the future; they will be shaping this country, fixing its problems and improving its efficiency so it’s imperative they get involved.
However, I also understand the apathy that our young voters have succumbed to previously. When I was in my teens/ early twenties, I was completely bogged down with studying, battling the private renting sector and trying to scrape enough money for rent each month. I didn’t own a TV, I didn’t read the news because I simple didn’t have time; politics was at the bottom of my priorities.
Along with these distractions, any glimpses I got of parliamentary action, PMQs or the like, looked to be, in all honesty, a complete joke. The jeering, throwing of insults and personal digs were cringeworthy, ensuring that any slight interest I had vanished considerably quickly.
This being said, there are a few individuals currently, who seem to have absorbed the common sense of everyone in the room (Mhairi Black and Caroline Lucas, I’m looking at you).
The differences between now and then is that now I understand that change CAN happen. At that point, I truly didn’t. I didn’t believe that my rent wouldn’t increase each year or the broken roof would be fixed. I thought working full time alongside university and washing mould and fungus off the walls of my £800 a month home (not a euphemism!) was what every young British person had gone through.
The Private Renting Sector
If you want to prepare yourself for the world and learn how to be the most resourceful you can be, while solidifying the skill of adaption, then plunge yourself head first into private renting.
I rented a flat in Brighton which as I mentioned above, had a broken roof. This roof was broken to the point that the whole of one side of the flat was damp, mould and fungus grew there regularly and under the kitchen sideboard you could actually see daylight through the wall. It wasn’t fixed for the whole 6 years I lived there. The rent was put up once but luckily I agreed to pay the increase only after the roof was fixed.
The maximum length of the lease was 1 year, meaning I had security for a year at a time only and also had to pay around £60 to renew the contract each time.
Due to the state of the roof, I ended up contacting my local MP, as well as the environmental health and other charities that I was put in contact with. Not knowing much about politics I sent an email to Caroline Lucas who I knew was Brighton based. She sent me a list of possible helplines and asked for photos of the flat. As it turned out, she pointed me in the direction of my actual MP as I wasn’t based in her constituency.
I can’t remember the name of the MP I contacted, but he was Conservative and I ended up speaking to him on the phone and explaining the situation. He told me that I was in a position to sue my landlord. The warnings from environmental health hadn’t worked and I had found out that the structure of the property was in a state that was considered illegal to rent out. I asked him if there was any help offered to young people in this situation. I couldn’t afford a lawyer and didn’t qualify for legal aid as I was working. His simple answer was ‘no’.
After moving from that flat, we signed the contract for a house outside of the city. One week before moving in, we were told that the landlord had changed his mind and actually wanted his family to live there. We couldn’t find anywhere else quick enough so ended up staying with family for 2 weeks. They lived a 2 hour commute from my work but luckily they were understanding and I was able to work from home for that time. Phew.
By this time we had a dog (adult, toilet trained chihuahua, I might add). Apparently this made the whole situation more difficult and many landlords were scared that my tiny chihuahua would destroy their entire house. It’s worth noting here that I’ve only ever rented a shell, no furnished properties.
We are completely house proud, clean and tidy and I was devastated that no one wanted to hear that; they heard the word ‘dog’ and instantly said no to us.
Again, I turned to the local (Conservative) MP, explained the situation and asked for his advice. Now, I promise this is 100% true and pretty much word for word accurate. His response was:
‘Why don’t you see if you could live with an elderly person who wants someone to walk their dog?’
Okay so call me crazy but I’d really like to with MY dog, not just ANY dog. As thrilling as it sounds to be 26 and walking an elderly person’s dog in exchange for cheap rent, after giving my own dog away.
THESE PEOPLE ARE MAKING DECISIONS ABOUT OUR COUNTRY.
They are out of touch with young people (and possibly ordinary people, by the sounds of it) and we NEED change.
Changes I’d like to see:
- A rent cap- It works in Germany and should be linked to the average national wage.
- Security for tenants- 2, 3 or 5 years so anyone with kids or who is on a low wage has some peace of mind that their home won’t be taken away from them. Moving has cost me roughly £3000 a time and some people don’t have that available at the drop of a hat.
- Stricter protocols for repairs- I think rent should be withheld until urgent repairs are carried out.
- A smaller renewal fee (none would be ideal!)- I have to pay £85 this year just to renew my contract. It seems a bit excessive!
- A new system in regards to pets- Maybe judge on the individual rather than tick boxes. Humans can also wreck houses and pay their rent late.
- Financial help for young people who don’t have the option to live at home. This could be paid for by stamping out benefit fraud.
As for buying a house, the gap between average house price and average wage has severely increased over the last few decades.
1960s average house price: £3,360
1960s average wage: £960 a year
2017 average house price: £234,466
2017 average wage: £27,000
With ever growing rents and the gap between wages and house prices increasing, it’s getting more and more unlikely that young people will be able to get on the property ladder.
I’m in no way saying that youngsters should get everything handed to them on a plate; hard work should be rewarded but it’s the growing difficulty that’s worrying. When that difficulty is surrounding a secure home, it’s even more serious.
To anyone under 30, I will say: GET INVOLVED.
Talk, discuss, question people, research, get involved in your local community, go canvasing and help to make change happen!
Let me know your thoughts!
Do you have any problems with renting?
Do you get involved with politics?
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