After a small group smashed the local Foxtons window, Brixton’s estate agents are at the fore of anti-gentrification concerns. Kate Corry spoke to local estate agents to see how the weekend’s events have affected them and how their everyday work has changed over the past few years.
The Reclaim Brixton anti-gentrification protest attracted several thousand protesters on Saturday 25th April. Under the over-arching issue of gentrification, there were several groups represented, from those campaigning to save the local businesses located under the railway arches, to long-standing residents who face being forced and priced out of the area, and young people affected by increased rents and the stark likelihood that they may never be able to afford to buy so much as a cupboard in Brixton.
The market has changed markedly over the past few years, we all know that. The rental market is far stronger, for better for some and for worse for others. In Brixton the number of buyers has increased, as the area becomes a more attractive investment opportunity.
Ajaye Gopal, Director of Eden Harper Estate Agents said: “I don’t like to use the word gentrification, but Brixton has changed a lot over the past few years. It’s still comparatively cheaper than other areas but you could say Brixton has seen some very rapid rises because its image has changed.”
Jackie Gregg, Director of Grapevine Lettings Agents agreed: “There are more and more investors as the number of new build properties and developments increases.
“With good transport links, lower rents and following the transformation of Brixton Village, the area has become as equally sought after as Clapham.”
Another big change for agents, as well as the increased competition from other agents that comes with an increase in demand, is the amount of administration involved in everyday lettings. This may seem irrelevant, but this impacts on fees to renters.
Ajaye explained: “That’s been the biggest single challenge for us. We now belong to about six compulsory professional bodies for various government schemes, and things that would appear simple, for example one tenant moving out of shared flat and another moving in, now takes half a day of paperwork compared to 25 minutes a few years ago.”
The increased amount of administration is mostly to protect renters in the lettings market, and to fight money laundering in the buying and selling market. No agent would deny that increased protection for renters is a good thing, but it does come at a price.
But, as Ajaye points out, a dodgy landlord is far less likely to be represented by an agent. “If you’re the sort of landlord who is going to take advantage of a tenant, you’re also the landlord who won’t use an agent, and most agents wouldn’t want to represent that landlord anyway.”
So, do events such as Reclaim Brixton have an effect on business? Not hugely, unless your window is smashed. People will still need places to live, and the buying and selling market will continue to grow as Brixton is increasingly seen as a safe place to invest in property, which isn’t something estate agents can control.
Craig Wildy, Director of Beresford Residential said: “There is a serious lack of social and affordable housing in the local area and the increase in demand within the private rented sector has only made things more difficult for people to find affordable property in Brixton.
“The only way that affordable housing can be provided to local people is for the government to build more homes and increase the available housing stock in what is now a very popular place to live.
“Brixton has an amazing reputation as a hub for social activism and events such as Reclaim Brixton prove just how invested local people are in their community.”
Foxtons declined to comment.