The Book Trade Charity has unveiled a progressive plan to help new joiners to the industry find accommodation in the capital amid soaring rental costs.
The 180-year-old charity is offering subsidised one and two-bedroom flats for a period of six-12 months to book trade staff in their first or second jobs, or on long unpaid internships, earning less than £25,000 a year.
The organisation has six flats to offer altogether in the Bookbinders Charity housing complex in Whetstone N20, based between the tube stations of Totteridge & Whetstone (Northern Line) and Arnos Grove (Piccadilly Line).
It is offering the one bedroom flats for £734 a month and bedsits with a kitchen and bathroom shared between two for £384 a month per person with utilities and wifi are included, although not council tax. The prices offer new joiners significant savings, with the average cost per month of a one-bedroom flat in the Whetstone area £1,200, estate agents Martyn Gerrard told The Bookseller, while two-bed flats average £1,400 a month.
Research from Countrywide’s Monthly Letting Index in August found that the average cost of renting a home in the capital had reached £1,709, a 2.1% year-on-year increase, while Hometrack analysts found in July that rental costs had soared 45% in a decade (since 2007).
More subsidised flats will be made available in due course, the charity has said.
The move comes amid a wider effort from the publishing industry to recruit employees from more diverse backgrounds.
Last week, the industry’s largest trade publisher Penguin Random House also turned its attention to the issue of high cost of rental housing in London, where the majority of publishing houses in the UK are based, unveiling a Home Sweet Loan scheme to support its employees with the cost of a deposit of a rental property, allowing them to borrow up to £2,500 interest-free.
In 2016, The Spare Room Project launched supported by The Publishers Association seeking to match aspiring publishers who live outside the capital with people within the industry willing to put them up for a week during a work experience placement.
The schemes follow calls from New Writing North c.e.o. Claire Malcolm last year that the industry should represent “more working class voices”. However this year Malcolm said publishing houses were “struggling” to work out how best to address the problem of regional diversity and said she was “sceptical” about those who had pledged to help the divide would actually take action.
Faber c.e.o. Stephen Page has also previously said the publishing industry is too “London-centric” and “toe curlingly” white and middle class and that changes to bring in diversity weren’t happening fast enough.
Julia Kingsford of Kingsford Campbell, who is consulting for the charity, said: "The average rent in London is now over £1,100 for a one bed, more than double the rest of the UK. With book trade entry level salaries staying low it's nigh on impossible for those who don't have supportive families or somewhere they can live in London to even contemplate entering the industry.
"According to the recent Book Careers survey, the average new starter will be taking home less than £1,500 a month after tax. We can talk as much as we want about inclusivity but unless our practices and policies enable anyone to be able afford to live on what they earn, it really is just talk. The housing and financial support The Book Trade Charity offers new entrants will make a real difference in opening up the trade to anyone, regardless of their financial situation or where they come from."
David Hicks, c.e.o. of the Book Trade Charity, said the organisation aimed to widen the “recruitment net” with its housing offer.
“We aim to support the book trade, and the individuals who work in it – or who are trying to break in, particularly if they are not from ‘traditional’ backgrounds,” he said. “We are delighted that the industry is addressing issues of diversity, and we are doing all we can to support the widening of the recruitment net, particularly in matters of geographical spread or financial and educational background.”
The charity is additionally asking book trade companies to include a line of information about the scheme when the advertise jobs so that potential recruits know about it.
Literary agent and marketer Julia Kingsford, who is consulting for the charity, said: “We’re working to promote the support offered as widely as possible but it’s in everyone’s interests to make sure that people actively looking to enter the book trade know what’s available to them to help if they need it. Having this information on job ads is just one more way we can reach more people and get across the message that there should be no financial barriers to entering the book trade.”
Established in 1837, The Book Trade Charity (BTBS), previously The Book Trade Benevolent Society, provides care and support to former, current and future book trade people in need, with grants and housing.
It has recently merged with the Matthew Hodder Charitable Trust and Bookbinders Charitable Society.