OPINION - The way to survive London rents? Couple up

 (SIPA USA/PA Images)
(SIPA USA/PA Images)

This time three years ago my rent was £250 a month for a shared three-bed in Clapton. It was a five-minute walk to the nearest Overground station; three minutes to the closest pub; quiet, away from any main roads, and situated in yummymummy-ville, a stone’s throw from Hackney Marshes. So what was the catch?

We didn’t mind not having a garden and the mould almost became a decorative impressionist wallpaper (though likely making us ill).The staggeringly low rent came down to one main factor: I was in a relationship. My partner and I shared a bedroom, halving our already cheap rent.

Today, more than half my pay cheque goes on rent and bills. Though it’s not just because I’m single that I’m paying close to four times what I was back then — according to new data released by Foxtons yesterday, London rent rocketed by 20 per cent last year, meanwhile the number of properties on the market fell by a third. It’s safe to say I don’t want roses for Valentine’s this year, I want to split rent — a line commonly used across dating apps in the capital.

But even those who are coupled-up are seeking out cheaper rent… and making the ultimate sacrifice to do so: warehouses. Love them or hate them, more and more people are turning to the warehouse districts of Hackney Wick, Seven Sisters and Green Lanes. For some, it’s a way of life: raves every weekend inside a concrete maze that has greenery springing from every ledge. The constant hum of techno coming from someone’s room, though you’re not quite sure who, and the perpetual fear of using the loo because you end up meeting someone new every time you go.

The only thing that saved me from sofa-surfing hell last summer was when a group of friends were kicked out of their Leyton house after their landlord hiked their rent. The four of us ruled out warehouses and moved into a three-bed, instead, playing the classic trick of turning the living room into a fourth bedroom. The concept of a ‘living room’ is quickly becoming an ancient myth for twenty-somethings making their way in the city. Our current ‘living room’ includes the usual suspects: a sofa and coffee table that came with the place, an unreliable telly, oh, and my bed.

Every evening we prop up the TV and pile into my bedroom to eat our dinners, alternating between who gets the sofa and who’s on the floor. With no kitchen space, it’s the only communal area we’ve got. After a row on New Year’s Eve, my housemates were subjected to eating their first meal of 2023 on the landing floor. It seems the only way to afford London rent in 2023 is by either being in a relationship or pretending to be in one.

The living-room trick usually only works if your landlord is unaware of it. In an attempt to pull the wool over their eyes, you may find yourself pretending to be your housemate’s long-term lesbian lover. If, by unfortunate chance, my landlord should see this article, I’ll be seeing you on SpareRoom again shortly.