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London becomes a "no grad zone"

September 2023 - Average room rents in London & surrounds are at a record high, reaching a staggering £1,013 in August 2023. Data reveals that London is now entirely unaffordable to graduates, thanks to sky-high rents.

Cost-of-living crisis raises London's affordability standards

According to SpareRoom's latest Quarterly Rental Index, not one postcode in the Capital has average room rents that are "affordable" on the average London graduate salary of £29,000 (equating to a monthly take-home of £1,932 after tax). This is based on traditional affordability standards, which state rent shouldn't cost more than 30% of your income.

Rocketing rents and an ongoing cost-of-living crisis have now rendered this 30% benchmark unrealistic, with the majority of Londoners spending in excess of 30% of their salary on rent.

Where can graduates afford to live?

The most affordable postcodes in the Capital are E12 (Manor Park) at £714, SE28 (Thamesmead) at £741 and E7 (Forest Gate) at £753, where young professionals can expect to spend 37%, 38% and 39% of their salary on rent respectively.

SpareRoom has compiled a list of the more affordable major UK cities, based on the average graduate salary in each city vs average room rent in the city:

  1. Liverpool (£503) = 29% of average graduate salary (£25,000)
  2. Sheffield (£504) = 29% of average graduate salary (£25,000)
  3. Belfast (£539) = 20% of average graduate salary (£42,000)
  4. Glasgow (£643) = 30% of average graduate salary (£32,500)
  5. Birmingham (£516) = 28% of average graduate salary (£27,000)
  6. Leicester (£530) = 30% of average graduate salary (£25,000)
  7. Newcastle upon Tyne (£545) = 31% of average graduate salary (£25,000)
  8. Leeds (£567) = 32% of average graduate salary (£25,000)

Nearly three quarters of renters are thinking of moving to escape high rents

September 2023 - New data from SpareRoom has revealed just under three quarters (72%) of renters are either actively looking (46%) to move to a new area or are considering it (26%), due to record high rents.

A graph displaying renters reasons for moving based on price in the area

High rents are pushing people to leave the UK

One in 14 (7%) renters who are either actively looking or in the process of considering a move are looking to leave the UK entirely due to high rents. Nearly a third (30%) are considering both a move elsewhere in the UK as well as weighing up their options abroad in search for cheaper accommodation. Sadly, this isn't a surprise as UK room rents are at an all time high (hitting £794 per month), London & surrounds saw rents exceed the £1,000 mark for the first time on record (£1,013).

Where outside the UK are people looking?

The top five countries renters are thinking of moving to are:

  • Spain
  • Australia
  • Portugal
  • France
  • Germany

A quarter of renters know someone who has moved abroad due to high rents

As the cost-of-living crisis continues, half (51%) of UK renters say they know someone who has moved elsewhere in the UK to escape rising costs, whilst a quarter (25%) know someone who has left the UK and moved to another county.

  1. Survey conducted by SpareRoom in July & August 2023 with 4,941 respondents
  2. Data based on all room ads live in August 2023, majority of ads include bills

Rental market shows signs of improvement

In July, the ratio of active renters searching compared to rooms available in the UK was 5.6, compared to 6.2 in July 2022. In London it was 4.9, compared to 6 at the same point last year.

Demand (and rents) still increasing but supply higher than in 2022

SpareRoom's latest Quarterly Rental Index shows rents are still rising in London and across the UK.

But we don't just look at the stats on a quarterly basis - we also do a separate set of monthly analyses, and this month's data sheds some light on the nuance of what's happening right now in the rental market.

Monthly vs annual changes

July 2023 vs June 2023

  • The number of active renters in the UK rose by 14.2% in July
  • The number in London rose by 14.5%
  • Live room ads rose by 6.3% in London and 5.5% across the UK
  • Average rents rose again to another all time high, both in London and across the UK

Looking at that in isolation, demand is outstripping supply again, so not much has changed. However, summer is always a busy time and we'd expect the numbers to climb month on month. Year on year gives a more accurate comparison.

July 2023 vs July 2022

  • The number of active renters in London fell by 0.2%
  • The number across the UK, however, rose by 7.5%
  • The number of live room ads in London was up by 20.8%
  • The number across the UK was up by 19.5%

The real test is to look at the ratio of people looking vs rooms available, as the actual number of either only tells one side of the story.

Active renters vs live room ads

  • The number of active renters searching, compared to rooms available in the UK in July was 5.6 - down from 6.2 in July 2022
  • In London it was 4.9 - down from 6 in July 2022
A graph displaying the ration renters per room in the UK A graph displaying the the ration renters per room in the London

At the worst of the imbalance last year, those numbers went up to 8.8 in London and 8.1 in the UK as a whole (both in September). We're currently below that, although nowhere near the averages of around 2 we'd expect historically.

How we calculate demand vs supply

The number of active renters per room isn't the same as the number of applicants per room.

As an example, if there are 100 rooms available and 200 people looking, that's a renters to rooms ratio of 2:1. However, it's possible that all 200 of those people might message one of the ads, leading that person to believe there are 200 people going for every room. That's a little misleading, so we look at active renters per room to get a real sense of what's happening.

In summary

Things are hotting up again, as they always do at this time of year, but they're starting from a (slightly) more balanced place than they were in July 2022.

We know from surveying tenants that lots of people are simply staying put to avoid rent increases. Maybe that's affecting things, or maybe (as the London stats suggest), people are just giving up on living in London because it's too expensive.

The next couple of months will be interesting to say the least.

  1. SpareRoom’s Quarterly Rental Index compares data from Q2 2023 with Q2 2022, based on 200,000+ UK room ads (inclusive of bills). Sample size is the combined total across both periods. Towns/cities/postcodes with a sample size of under 50 have been excluded. London data covers E, EC, N, NW, SE, SW, W & WC postcodes
  2. SpareRoom’s monthly report compares data from July 2023 with July 2022, based on 39,000 live UK room ads and data from over 220,000 renters active in that period.

One in Six Renters Working More Than One Job

17% of renters in the UK say they now have to work more than one job, with two thirds of those (67%) doing so to be able to afford their rent.

Renters working multiple jobs

A survey of over 11,000 UK renters, carried out by SpareRoom, has revealed that 17% of UK renters are working more than one job. That figure rises to one in five (20%) in London.

A graph displaying the percentage of renters with more than one job

A further 12% of UK renters only had one job but were currently looking for a second.

82% of those with more than one job say they've only had to do this in the past 18 months.

Renters need more than one job to afford their rent

Two thirds (67%) of those with more than one job say they need to work multiple jobs in order to pay their rent, with almost as many (66%) unable to afford bills without this extra income.

The key reasons given for having more than one job:

  • To afford to pay the rent - 67%
  • To afford bills - 66%
  • To be able to save - 54%
  • To afford holidays, clothes, nights out etc - 40%
A graph displaying the reasons people have more than one job


  1. Survey conducted by SpareRoom in March 2023 with 11,533 renters

One In Three Renters Severely Rent Burdened

81% of renters in the UK now spend more than 30% of their take home pay on rent.

People spending over 30% of their salary on rent are considered 'rent burdened' - the majority of Brits are now in this category. Over one in three (34%) renters now spend more than 50% of their salary on rent, making them ‘severely rent burdened’.

Most UK renters are now rent burdened

In a survey of over 11,000 UK renters, 81% said they spend over 30% of their take home pay on rent. One in three (34%) say they spend more than 50% of their salary on rent.

Both of these figures have risen over the past 5 years.

Chart showing percent of renters burdened and those who are severely burdened

Number of renters who feel rent is unaffordable has doubled

There has been a considerable shift in what is considered ‘affordable’ when it comes to rents. Between 2019 to 2021, the percentage of renters who classified their rent as unaffordable remained consistent at around one in three.

Now, over half (54%) of renters deem their rent to be unaffordable - that has almost doubled since 2021.

Chart showing results of a yes or no survey if people consider rent affordable

Women affected more than men

Women are feeling the strain more than men. 85% of women are rent burdened, compared to 77% of men.

39% of women are severely rent burdened, compared to just 28% of men.

59% of women deem their rent as unaffordable, compared to 50% of men.

Chart showing percent of renters burdened by gender

London and the south face the worst affordability

Renters in London, South East and South West England spend a higher proportion of their take-home pay on rent than in other regions. In London 86% pay over 30% of their salary on rent, followed by 83% in the South West and 82% in the South East.

Northern Ireland is the least rent burdened region of the UK, with 67% of respondents paying over 30% of their take home pay on rent.

Chart showing percent of renters burdened by region


  1. Survey conducted by SpareRoom in March 2023 with 11,533 respondents
  2. A report by the Affordable Housing Commission
  3. Data for 2019 – 2021 inclusive. Proportion of renters that consider their rent unaffordable at 31% (2019), 31% (2020) and 28% (2021) respectively.

Rental Crisis Putting Lives On Hold

UK renters are being forced to delay personal and professional milestones due to rental market chaos - with rents and demand at all time highs, and supply at near 10 year low.

The hidden consequences could have a long term impact on finances, people's careers and life plans, mental health and, ultimately, the UK's economic recovery.

New SpareRoom research reveals that 98% of renters are concerned about the current state of the UK rental market, with high rents being the key worry.

Renters putting plans on hold

The current rental market has meant many people have had to put life plans on hold due to affordability. The key plans being affected are:

  • moving into their own place (64%)
  • traveling (30%)
  • moving in with their partner (15%)
Chart showing the key plans being affected by the rental market chaos

72% of renters have postponed moving

72% of tenants who haven't moved in the past 18 months say they decided to stay in their current property despite wanting to move.

Key reasons were:

  • Available properties were out of budget - 82%
  • Lack of supply - 46%
  • Available supply was lower standard than they wanted - 46%
  • High levels of competition - 43%
  • They'd have had to leave their current area to afford to move - 37%
  • Properties were let too quickly to secure a viewing - 33%
  • Didn't want to get into a bidding war - 27%

Nearly ¾ say the rental crisis has negatively impacted their career progression

Almost three quarters (73%) say the rental crisis has had a negative impact on their career progression.

Two thirds (65%) of renters said they'd consider turning down a job opportunity to avoid having to look for a new place in the current market and a third (33%) have already turned down a new job opportunity to avoid having to relocate.

Pie chart showing people who would or have turned down a job opportunity to avoid moving

Key things people said they had to forego by rejecting a job offer:

  • Higher pay - 58%
  • Better work/life balance - 50%
  • Career progression/promotion - 43%
  • Easier commute - 38%
  • More rewarding work - 37%
  • More flexible hours - 36%
Bar chart showing key things people said they had to forego by rejecting a job offer

97% feel the prospect of house hunting makes them anxious!

Stress in the rental market is also affecting the nation's mental health, with almost everyone surveyed (97%) admitting that the prospect of house-hunting in the current climate makes them anxious.

Why does this matter?

The current rental market isn't working for anyone. Renters are stressed and struggling, landlords are leaving the market and our workforce is becoming less and less flexible by the day. Both the Conservatives and Labour are heading into the next election promising to grow the UK economy and jobs play a big part in that. Jobs are the number one reason why people relocate, but if people are unable or unwilling to move to take those jobs, the nation's economic growth may well suffer too.

Why is the rental market so screwed?

In September 2022 we reported some startling data that showed just how drastically new government legislation has backfired and helped create the worst rental crisis in living memory.

Rental demand hit an all time high in 2022

Demand for rooms hit an all time high in 2022, while supply was at its lowest point in almost a decade. As a result, rents rose to record highs in almost every major UK town and city.

Line chart showing rooms available vs new users seeking rooms vs average rents

Why are there so few rooms?

The main reason is that landlords are quitting the market.

Around five years ago, the government brought in new legislation, which increased landlords’ costs and drove rents up as a result. You can see a decline (in the graph above) in the number of rooms available from around the time the changes came into force around five years ago. When we recently polled landlords, a third told us they were reducing the number of properties they have this year and 16% said they were quitting altogether.