Cost of rent in London highlights squeeze on workers and families, union says

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Average rents for two-bedroom apartments in London have jumped to more than 50% of earnings across the capital, highlighting the country's housing crisis, a new survey has revealed.

Research by the GMB union showed the figure is as high as 73% in Westminster, and over 60% in areas including Hackney, Islington and Camden.

Workers in London are now paying out around 54% of their earnings on rent, up from 45% in 2011 - more than twice the average for England.

Warren Kenny, the GMB's London regional secretary, said: "These figures demonstrate the extent of the squeeze felt by workers and their families in London since the financial crisis in 2008. Rents have surged upwards as pay has been stagnant or falling.

"They show that a massive programme to build more homes, especially homes for rent, by the London boroughs is absolutely essential in all parts of the region and has to get under way without delay.

"We have been talking about this problem for far too long, there can be no excuses for not providing housing to people that they can afford to live in on average wages."

The GMB said decisions by the government of Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s to sell council housing stock, not replace it, and to pay landlords housing benefit instead of providing social housing directly has been a "huge and expensive mistake".

Last year £24 billion was spent on housing benefit, with much of this public money ending up untaxed in bank accounts in offshore tax havens, said the union.

"If a fraction of that amount had been spent on social housing for rent, the strain on the taxpayer would be less and people would have housing they can afford to live in," said Mr Kenny.