It is difficult to imagine a more grotesque situation than entire streets full of mansions lying empty in Chelsea, Knightsbridge and Kensington whilst just down the road the number of people sleeping in shop doorways soars. But this is the sad reality of a reckless free-market economy which turns our homes into just one more commodity to be gambled with by the rich.
It is impossible to guess just how big the London housing bubble will get, and how far outside of the capital the impact will stretch. The news that house prices have risen by 18% in just one year should chill everyone who hopes to continue actually living in the city.
London’s housing market is being turned into a billionaire’s casino, and as more money pours in those returns will keep getting bigger. Or at least they will until someone blinks. And then the whole sorry scam will come crashing down, leaving the not quite so obscenely rich – who thought they were the players – discovering that they have been well and truly fucking played.
The end result could be a disaster as London is split between a minority of buy to let landlords, who have several homes, and tenants with none who can no longer afford the rents demanded to compensate for mass negative equity.
The real fucking tragedy though is that the only thing worse than the bubble bursting is prices continuing to soar. Already most of the capital is unaffordable for those on low incomes. With housing benefits now capped far below rents in many areas, the vast majority of London’s private tenants are only a P45, an illness, or an accident away from being socially exported from the capital.
As prices soar the creative heart of London will be ripped apart. The days when young people could come to the capital, live in a squat, or a cheap if grotty shared house in somewhere like Hackney or Brixton are already long gone. It is no surprise that beyond over-hyped internet start ups and hipster twats, London’s cultural life is decaying from the bottom up – those at the top just can’t see it yet. Artists, actors and musicians will be forced to join the exodus out of the city along with street cleaners and care workers.
Social housing is now being re-structured as a stepping stone for young middle class professionals, with laughably called affordable rents set at 80% of soaring local rental markets. Many of those who already have a council flat are being bedroom taxed out of the capital. When these tenancies end, these homes too will convert to ‘affordable housing’ in many boroughs – which means they will be unaffordable for most people.
The problems do not end there. Hundreds of thousands of children are currently growing up in social housing in London who will never be able to afford to live here when they have families of their own. Meanwhile as the so-called ‘generation rent’ approaches old age, few will have pensions which cover London rents. The housing crisis in London is only just beginning.
Yet to hear the debate about London’s housing problems you would think the problem only affects ‘young professionals’ hoping to get on the housing ladder. It is as if the rest of us – millions of us – do not exist. The people who built this city, clean it, drive the buses and look after its children are being quietly abandoned with no thought at all to our lives, housing needs or futures.
Across London, from Deptford to Tottenham, luxury flats are springing up like a virus – the first warning to the poor that this is no longer our town. There was a time when gentrification took a couple of decades, areas like Notting Hill did not become the playgrounds of the rich overnight. Now as soon as a Foxtons opens next to the launderette you know you’re fucked.
When this onslaught is finally complete London will die. No-one wants to live in a city full of braying chinless wankers jabbering into smart phones about house prices all day. A global city of the super rich may sound like a utopia to the likes of Boris Johnson or the toffs in government. But they will destroy London like they destroy everything else. The end result will be a city that may have lots of places to buy fucking artisan cupcakes or quaff Champagne, but it will be a place with no soul. Their money will not be able to fix that.
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