By Guy O’Connell
What rent do you pay in Fitzrovia? We find a rent scale from £99 to £1,500 per week. Not long ago a narrow house on Tottenham House went up for sale for £3 million. The fat price for the skinny home left many locals gasping. But recent evidence of rising rents took Fitzrovia News out onto the streets to ask what it costs to live in the area we call home.
Over the past few weeks, two cases have come to our attention of long-standing local tenants facing rising rent bills from landlords who make technical improvements. The idea is to “upgrade” a flat, and then bump up the rent.
This is all good if the improvements are real and lasting, but what if – as has been reported to FN – the alterations are cosmetic, to allow a rent rise rather than a boost in living standards?
To test the waters, we now start a rent table and ask you to get in touch with us and add details.
THE LOWER END
Fitzrovia has many small rooms and studio flats. Hundreds of students are housed here in the area. Despite the changes to housing benefits, for the moment we remain a mixed residential area.
To find the lower end of the rent scale, FN took a well-respected measure for tenants who are lucky to have a council flat, but who are not helped with housing benefit.
According to a recent meeting of concerned residents, council tenants of this kind in the Camden part of Fitzrovia are paying an average of £99 per week. (The figures come from a recent edition of the Camden New Journal, reporting on a proposed 8.1% rise in rents.)
THE UPPER END
To find the upper end, FN looked online at some of the tempting offers put out there by landlords.
“We are proud to present this beautiful 1 bedroom flat in the heart of London. Just 4 minutes away from Tottenham Court Road Station, off Oxford Street. It is a very spacious flat with a large open plan reception, master bedroom, lots of storage. Flat is very modern, fully fitted and furnished. The reception and bedroom opens up to the balcony. Located on the 7th floor, with beautiful view of West End, of a secured period conversation with two lifts. All bills included. Available for Olympics let.”
It sounds marvellous, in the heart of Fitzrovia. The cost per week for this one bedroom beauty? £1500. That’s 15 times the lower end council rent. If you multiplied the UK average income – £24,000 – by 15, that would be £360,000 per year.
If you bought a cheap bicycle for £125, that would be the equivalent of £1,875. Etc etc.
The chances are that as you read this, you fit between these two extremes. Just like the rising cost of buying property here, the figures show that Fitzrovia is one of the parts of London which has the greatest spread of incomes and living costs. This helps explain the influx of developers trying to find change of use of buildings and “refresh” older rented buildings and the tenants.
When we took to the streets, we found some good evidence of what’s been going on.
FITZROVIA IS AN ATTRACTIVE PLACE TO LIVE
Alex (above) is an American in his twenties. “I used to live in Canary Wharf with two flatmates, all mod cons and a balcony for the same price as I now live with 4 flatmates, and no living room here in Fitzrovia, “ he says. “But I always wanted to live centrally, and to be on Charlotte Street, even above a busy restaurant, is what I want, and I’m happy to pay for it.”
FITZROVIA HAS BEEN CHANGING RAPIDLY
“I moved here in 1967 at the age of twenty.” So says Nicholas (right) who runs the barber’s shop on Goodge Street. “I live in Wembley now with my family. I love Fitzrovia and I know everyone here on this street, but there is no way I could afford to live here again.”
FITZROVIA IS OUT OF BOUNDS BUT I LIKE TO VISIT
“We all grew up just north of here,” say two young women. “But it’s impossible to afford this area (Fitzrovia,) and it’s hard to afford to stay just north of the Euston Road,” explain Raheda and Tania (below). “But where I’m now living in West London it’s not good value at all, and I’m in a very small place and I think I could get better back in Camden.”
In our next edition, we’d welcome your stories of good and bad landlords, and if you own a flat and let it to tenants, let us know your plans too.
But for now, FN has concerns that long standing residents are having to leave in the face of rising rents, and we’d love to hear your stories.