The Camden New Journal published a story this week on a very expensive shoebox of a flat that’s gone on the market in Hampstead Village. I gave a quote, which I’ve reproduced in full at the end of this post.

I’ve written before about how these salacious stories are harmful to private renters. Writing about Hampstead as if £1,100 a month for a mini-studio creates the impression that that’s what people have to pay. And if you’ve fallen in love with the area – as I did and many others do at first sight – you’ll pay it if that’s what you think it takes.

But it’s not what it takes, and this flat is very very unrepresentative of the Hampstead rental market. I pay only slightly more than that for a proper-sized one-bedroom flat that’s several times the size, and my rent has not increased since I moved to the flat three years ago. Private rents have stagnated, and that gives private renters the opportunity to shop around and say no to landlords – like this one – that are just taking the mickey.

Labour have responded to this story with trademark opportunism. To Camden’s Cabinet member, also quoted in the article, a single expensive flat justifies a wholesale change in national policy. Forget that rents rose 0.0% in the last year across London. Forget that more homes are being built in the UK than in almost any year since the 1960s. Forget that rent controls or control of the property market will make things worse. No, a single anecdote is all they need. I really despair.

Private renters need champions – they don’t need to be lied to about how much it costs to rent in our community, as that will only increase the amount they do pay.

My full quote:

There’s no doubt that Hampstead is expensive, but this is absurd. It’s fortunately not representative of what’s out there – I rent in the middle of Hampstead Village and pay only slightly more than this for a flat several times the size.

With average rents now falling across London, private renters should have the confidence to shop around and say no to landlords taking advantage of prospective tenants overestimating how much they have to pay.

This flat does show the importance of providing accommodation – like at the Royal Free’s Queen Mary’s House – for key workers that work unsociable hours, have to live locally, and aren’t able to say no.