Islington council takes shoebox apartment off the market

Welcome to London: mind the gap. Photo: Rightmove

Islington council have taken a shoebox apartment off the market because it was too small.

The studio flat in question, located on Kember Street, went viral within hours of being listed on Rightmove for rent this week, as the Internet took a break from cats and GIFs to talk housing. Despite its tiny size, the property found a tenant in even less time.

The apartment was advertised at £170 per week, despite not appearing large enough to open a cupboard door because of other furniture in the way. TheMoveChannel.com described the flat as “a kitchen with a bed in it”, while many highlighted the property as representing “everything that is wrong with London’s housing market”.

Indeed, the UK capital is famously short of housing as demand soars for accommodation. Mayor of London Boris Johnson has pledged to build more than 40,000 homes per year to help alleviate the shortfall, but with property prices rising above their previous peak, many wannabe buyers are forced to become tenants rather than homeowners; a situation that has left a small minority of eager landlords able to charge astronomical rates for miniscule properties.

Landlord Andrew Panayi rebutted the claims that the property was too small, saying that the photos “didn’t do justice” to the apartment’s actual size.

“They didn’t photograph the bathroom or the [communal] roof terrace,” he told the press.

Officials, though, have now investigated the flat and taken it off the market because it was, indeed, too small to meet legal requirements. Islington Borough Council’s Housing Chief Councillor James Murray confirmed to the Guardian that the door of the cupboard of the sink was not able to be opened at all thanks to the double bed standing next to it.

He suggested that while planning permission was given in the 1990s to use the North London block for student units, the bedrooms appeared to have been converted into self-contained flats.

Is the Kember Street flat really representative of what is wrong with the London property market? In some ways, yes: with not enough homes and not enough space to build new ones, people in need of somewhere to live have little choice of where to rent, let alone how much to pay.

“The problem is that people are getting squeezed by high private rent prices and the lack of affordable housing,” Murray tells the newspaper, “so you get landlords who are in a position to exploit people.”

But recent research from the National Landlords Association shows that, in spite of the negative image of landlords often presented in the media, the majority of landlords are not planning to hike rates to squeeze people’s pockets.

45 per cent of landlords say that rents have risen in their local area over the past 12 months, yet just a third have raised rents during that period, reveals the NLA report. Fewer still – 28pc – say they plan to raise rents over the coming months.

It may only be a small number of people placing units such as Islington’s kitchen-plus-bed on the market, but in the current conditions, the problem is that it is still possible to do.

Arguably most worrying of all, though, is that without the furore raised on the Internet this week, would anyone even have noticed? Perhaps the web and all its cat GIFs are a good thing, after all, if only to cheer up anyone currently stuck in a shoebox flat, repeatedly failing to open their cupboard door.

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