#5fifty5 The Way We Live

Over the last couple of weeks I have publicised hundreds of overpriced London private flats on the market, some in poor condition, many featuring dubious layouts that would make it onto my rental all time hall of infamy. I have spoken about the housing situation in London on my radio show Daniel Ruiz Tizon is Available at length too, the third series of which ended just last night. 

The situation in London, despite what the media would have you believe, is not new. The private rentals market has been bad for the last fifteen years. It's just since the 2008 crash, many middle class people, obsessed with owning their own homes, like much of the working class, to be fair, have been forced into the private rentals market and it has at last become fashionable to speak about private renting.

I have always rented. As did my parents before me. I had no desire to have a mortgage hanging over my head. If I couldn't buy a home outright and thus eliminate the bogeyman landlord from my life, I wasn't interested in home ownership. In that respect, I'm similar to many Spaniards. I have family who have lived in their rented homes for forty years or more but unlike in London, they can hang up pictures without consulting a 20-page tenancy agreement and they can make their places look like a proper home. We can't do that here. 

Coming from an immigrant community, I have always been familiar with beds being in every room of the bedsit. Before my family moved into the house that continues to plague my nightmares, Mayflower, in '76, my cousins had lived there and one of my uncles used to sleep in the kitchen when my mum used to live with them before she got married. I myself never had my own room till my mid-twenties. I never had a proper bed till 1999. The day my mum died, I had that same morning put the second and last of my z-beds away for the day. Our home always took on a different appearance by night. I was used to living like that. I retreated into my own imaginary world to cope, creating, as some of you may know, seminal US cop show procedural, Kid Cop, which won 37 Emmys between 1980 and 1992, including five best actress awards for my original co-star, Victoria Principal.

Many of the immigrants we knew from the southern European community I grew up in also lived like us, but eventually, by the start of the eighties, had progressed and moved onto council homes or even bought their own properties. Others who had already owned their properties by the seventies, moved their lodgers on and eventually had enough money to be able to take over the whole house. That never happened with us. I grew up in a harsh poverty-stricken climate and both my parents were dead before they were out of their fifties and both outlived by siblings who were twenty years older. There is no coincidence there. Poverty kills. 

Growing up, I could never quite get my head around wondering into the homes of friends and discovering rooms without beds. Rooms with heating and running hot water. Places with self contained bathrooms. All the things my family never had. 

I therefore find it extraordinary that three decades on, hundreds of thousands of Londoners, young and old - this obsession with the young cheeses me off - regardless of age, many are in the same boat - are living in a way that my family and the old community I sprung from did. To be waking up every morning in a bed by your white goods, that you are paying sometimes upwards of £800 or even £900 per calendar month for, is extraordinary and wrong. Very wrong.

Too many people are holding down low income jobs. Too many are suffering mental health issues as a result of leaving their old neighbourhoods and moving somewhere new. They have little money after covering their rent to go out and escape the confines of their sick joke tiny homes, and with mental heath services being slashed, often find themselves with nowhere to turn to for help. We cannot and should not accept that it is right to pay this obscene amount of money to live in such shoddy accommodation in the places we grew up or settled in. These private landlords cannot and should not be allowed to get away with what they're doing and I will continue to highlight the shameful private rental accommodation pockmarking this increasingly divisive city. Already councils have been in touch about some of the flats I have highlighted and I am determined to continue doing this.