A home that’s helped Reuben lay down roots in the capital

  • Name: Reuben
  • Housing association: Optivo
  • Housing type: Social rent

Reuben lives with his wife and two children in Lewisham, south London. Originally from Lancashire, he moved to London in 1994 to find work.

Historically one of London’s cheaper boroughs, the area has increasingly become unaffordable for many long-time residents. Today, there are over 10,000 households on the local council’s waiting list for an affordable home. It’s an especially big problem in an place with a long history of being home to budding young artists and musicians who are often on low incomes or have insecure employment.

Those of Reuben’s generation who were unable to buy a house in their mid-20s have struggled to stick around, with average house prices in Lewisham rising a staggering 600% over the last two decades.

Many of his neighbours and friends have moved out of London altogether, but living in a social rented home has allowed Reuben to raise a family in a place he loves. The below-market rent he pays means he can work part-time and share child care responsibilities with his wife.

“The fair rent we pay means we’ve been able to raise our children in the city we love.”

Reuben works at the Lewisham Arthouse, a community-run venue that supports artists with creative workspaces. It was at the Arthouse that Reuben met his friend, Simon, who lives nearby in a housing co-operative.

Reuben and Simon call Lewisham a “proper” London borough. It’s close to the centre of town and full of great high streets, cultural attractions, and places to eat, drink and shop.

At the same time, Reuben says his local community feels like “a little village”. There’s plenty of green space nearby, his family enjoys a large private garden, and the lounge of his ground floor flat faces out onto a leafy, Victorian terrace street. And the mix of private owners, renters and social tenants that live on his street creates a diverse and friendly neighbourhood. It’s not the stereotypical social housing that’s often portrayed by the media. But for Reuben and his family, it’s home.

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