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London's Great Exodus.
October 13, 2013 6:03 AM   Subscribe

Now it is beginning to feel that the next phase of London’s history will be one of transience, with no allegiance to the city. (slNYT)
posted by Kitteh (75 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
London is becoming increasingly focussed on being a service city to the rich, and there's a certain irony in the fact that the City is now comoditising the fabric of the very conurbation they reside in.

London property increasingly has a fragrance that reminds me of tulips.
posted by jaduncan at 6:21 AM on October 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


Matt, who had been looking for a house for more than three years, summed up the reason for leaving best: “I don’t want to be a slave to a mortgage for the next 25 years.” Given the astronomic rise in house prices here, he wasn’t speaking metaphorically.

Yes he was! WTF, NYT.
posted by nicwolff at 6:24 AM on October 13, 2013 [32 favorites]


Maybe mortage (pronounced /mor-SHEY/) is slang for a bank person in Londonistan and they've introduced slavery as a special form of professional relationship?
posted by Foci for Analysis at 6:32 AM on October 13, 2013


I've long said that if I won the lottery the first thing I'd buy is some property in London. I didn't put two and two together and realise that everyone else had had the same idea though.

By property tax, are they referring to council tax? Because those figures are shocking.
posted by lucidium at 6:38 AM on October 13, 2013


By property tax, are they referring to council tax? Because those figures are shocking.

So, yeah, why the tiny property taxes? Do they not use an assessment on time of purchase? I'm trying to figure out this paragraph:

The property taxes on Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s $20 million London home come to £2,143.30 per year. That’s $3,430. Clearly, the mayor bought in at the right time. The Google executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, is reported to be house hunting here — he’s looking in the £30 million (about $48 million) price range. Yet he will pay a similar amount in property tax.

Even a place like Houston has a little under a 2% property tax rate.
posted by zabuni at 6:40 AM on October 13, 2013


No, of course he wouldn't be a slave.


He'd be an indentured servant.




Rule Britania, eh what?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:40 AM on October 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm thinking about moving back to London from its sister city in Expensiveness, NYC. This article gave me pause for thought but I've already heard most of the information before. I'm nowhere near her friends, invisible or not, in social standing though so I will keep the unrealistic hope that it's still manageable (as NYC is, not pleasant, but doable) for renters....please let me keep this hope!
posted by bquarters at 6:42 AM on October 13, 2013


Yes. Its council tax. Which is banded and the top band is at a low level.
posted by JPD at 6:43 AM on October 13, 2013


London has an average price to earnings ratio of over 10 times, so should interest rates ever rise to the unimaginable heights of 10% at any time in the next 25 years, that will require your entire pre-tax salary just to make the interest payments.
posted by Lanark at 6:44 AM on October 13, 2013


This is ironic timing; I've just come back from a week spent in Brockley, near Greenwich, and it was ... weird. The area, large parts of the surrounding areas, were gentrified. People were often (apart from tourists) wandering around dressed in kinda generic hipster clothing; until they spoke - and often the accent appeared to be Russian - the area and people were weirdly reminiscent of what you'd see in Lena Dunham's Girls. Might as well have been Brooklyn, or Portland, rather than Greenwich.

On the plus, it all looked pretty and neat. On the minus; generic, too orderly, and the house prices were utterly insane. Rentals looked reasonable until I realized the prices were by week, rather than by month. Transport costs, especially if commuting, were expensive. Also: £10.95 for a jacket potato and side salad in a cramped hipster cafe? I walked out.

Speaking about this with a friend from Germany who reckons that many of her friends in London are there, having a rubbish life and lifestyle, because they are under the delusion that they'll have some big break regarding work, money or something at some point (actors drifting to Hollywood?), or that the housing market will massively crash (as people have been hoping for for several decades now).

On day two of this trip, the basement flat next to where we were staying disgorged eight people, which explained how all but the super-well-off could afford to stay there. Glad to get back to Birmingham, where I'm renting a nice en-suite room in a quiet house with one other lodger, and paying the princely sum of £8 per day which includes wifi and all bills and utilities.
posted by Wordshore at 6:45 AM on October 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Any chance that they will reform the property tax laws?
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:49 AM on October 13, 2013


Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ....




.... no.
posted by Grangousier at 6:51 AM on October 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


zabuni, if the Google boss buys a house for 30 million he will have to pay 2.1 million in tax at the time of purchase.
posted by colie at 6:58 AM on October 13, 2013


We just came back from a stay in London ourselves; we rented a really nice flat in Brixton--well, Herne Hill, but the owner insisted it was Brixton--and as usual when we visit the city, we're always curious as to housing prices/rents. I often accidentally think that when they say 600,000 pounds, they mean the same price in CAD/USD.

And then I do the math. Fuuuuuck.....

(Also, I am very very fond of Greenwich, but we had a lunch with a friend there and when he told me what he and his missus paid for their flat--we asked out of genuine curiosity; he didn't volunteer the info--I felt the urge to order another drink.)
posted by Kitteh at 7:00 AM on October 13, 2013


I'm London born. My dad was a teacher and in 1971 he earned 1,800 pounds per year. So he and my mum bought a small house in Islington for 5,000 pounds - the mortgage lender therefore providing around 2.5 times his annual salary.

Fast forward to now and I saw the same house for sale - not even in a good part of Islington (it is a very poor and deprived area overall) - for 650,000, while a teacher's salary is now around 30,000.
posted by colie at 7:05 AM on October 13, 2013 [12 favorites]


Islington is poor and depraved?
posted by JPD at 7:09 AM on October 13, 2013


Islington is indeed the 5th most deprived London borough and the 14th most deprived borough in all of England. It is also incredibly densely populated even for London.
posted by colie at 7:14 AM on October 13, 2013


Yes, the price-to-earnings ratio is pretty crazy - the Economist has a very nice graph of how it differs between London and the rest of the UK. For first-time buyers, it's over 7:1 in London but 4.5:1 elsewhere. Both are rather higher than the ~4 and ~3 respectively over 1980-2000.

I grew up in the Wirral, in the northwest of England near Liverpool. A number of my friends and I ended up in London, mostly because that's where the biggest jobs and opportunities were. Most of them have moved back up north because they basically couldn't afford living here any more. One was a teacher, who was pretty miserable about having no money and no time in an extremely expensive city, and another is a pretty well-off lawyer who nonetheless still can't afford to have the house-and-garden that he would like for his family.

Oh well - that's what we get for having a world city. My uninformed opinion is that a mixture of:

1) Massive expansion of homebuilding (and infrastructure) in London
2) Much greater emphasis on growing jobs and the economy in non-southeast regions
3) Higher taxes on high earners and expensive houses
4) Guaranteed minimum income (well, I had to get it in somewhere)

would help.
posted by adrianhon at 7:14 AM on October 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


If you view stamp taxes as a lump sum payment of real estate taxes the implied tax rate is still really low.

That said a lot of the things we fund out of property taxes in the US are funded at the national level out of general tax revenues in the UK which is inherently a lot fairer
posted by JPD at 7:17 AM on October 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm British. Lived in London (or at least inside the M25) for around 6 years of my life. Have visited London a couple of times this year, and Malaysia and Singapore.

London is becoming to the UK as Singapore is to Malaysia: a rich city state surrounded by source of fungible cheap guest-workers. All the City needs to do is declare independence and hang onto the Trident nuclear subs and they're Singapore.

(I live in Edinburgh, I'm middle-aged, and successful, and my home is worth about double the national average ... but if I sold it and moved to London I'd be hard pressed to buy a crappy one bedroom shoebox apartment in a run-down part of Tower Hamlets. Guess I'm doomed to stay in Scotland ...)
posted by cstross at 7:18 AM on October 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


There ought to be overblown property values where overblown property values ought to be?
posted by Sphinx at 7:20 AM on October 13, 2013


I think a lot of people here are confused on the idea of property taxes-- in the UK we pay stamp duty to the government when we buy a property, in London that essentially ranges between 4-7% for an average buyer, and jumps to 15% if it's a corporate/group entity buying. So colies right- when Mr. Google buys his 30 million house, he pays 2.1 million to the government, if Google bought it for him, they'd pay 4.5 million.

Then each year we pay council tax, based on the tax brand of your house, which is set by your local council to pay for all the services they provide in your area (garbage collection, libraries, police, transport etc etc) and that can range from a few hundred to a couple of thousand a year.
posted by Static Vagabond at 7:22 AM on October 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


That said a lot of the things we fund out of property taxes in the US are funded at the national level out of general tax revenues in the UK which is inherently a lot fairer

I just want to emphasize this. Property taxes fund school districts in the US...and look how fair that turns out to be! Although obviously people buying massively expensive properties and not living in them/working in the UK adds a complication factor as their money is not going back into general tax revenues...hmm.
posted by bquarters at 7:24 AM on October 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


On the train back into London from Billericay (SIL lives there with her husband & son), I kept seeing these brand new shiny apartment buildings being erected around the Stoke Newington/Hackney area, or the edges thereof, with large banners that said AFFORDABLE LIVING IN THE HEART OF LONDON.

Later that night at the pub with friends, when I asked about them and what they might cost, they snorted and said, "Their idea of affordable living and our idea of affordable living doesn't even mesh."

To edit: I imagine these flats to not be very big, just new.
posted by Kitteh at 7:29 AM on October 13, 2013


Speaking as one of those fungible guest workers... we're not having it either.

What other cities like Singapore and New York had, as they embarked on a process of social cleansing, was an excellent method of transportation to ship workers in and out the city centre. London doesn't have that, as it was one of the first to create a transportation network, and it's a higgledy piggledy mess.

Furthermore, as prices in the city rise, and more urban workers flee to (for instance) awful parts of Bedfordshire and North Herts, the cost of living in those places rises to beyond the point where you can work in London at a low-paid job and get the train out here to live in your cheap housing. A yearly train ticket is beyond the wage-packet of a lot of people as it's a several-thousand lump sum... and so the job-hunting maxim becomes 'anywhere but London', even though that's where the wages are, because the wages aren't enough.

A knock-on effect of this is that a lot more events are happening in the 'shires than there used to be. Young graduates are refusing to move into London because it's an obvious hard-scrabble existence.
posted by The River Ivel at 7:30 AM on October 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


> "Then each year we pay council tax, based on the tax brand of your house ... and that can range from a few hundred to a couple of thousand a year."

To further clarify:

1) Council tax is normally paid by the person who lives in the house, which is of course not necessarily the owner; if you rent a place, you will almost certainly be the one paying council tax on it. If you buy a house and then rent it out, you're most likely not going to be paying any annual tax on it.

2) While council tax bands are based on the value of the house, the upper limit is pretty low as such things go. Where I've just moved, the highest council tax band is H (2,338 pounds per year), which is for properties worth above 212,000 pounds. Someone living is a house worth 6,000,000 pounds here will pay exactly the same council tax as someone living in a house worth 250,000 pounds.
posted by kyrademon at 7:33 AM on October 13, 2013


It's worth noting that wealthy property owners paying huge annual tax bills isn't really a great situation, either, if it's done along US lines. One of the major problems with infill development in the US is that lots are generally taxed based on improvement appraisal, so you'll see a lot of downtown lots in cities that could be developing strongly that are still maintained as surface parking lots—so that the landowners, who are speculating that the land value will rise, can avoid paying high property tax. It becomes a game of chicken. Eventually, hypothetically, someone will sell and the prices will rise. Or, you know, all of the developers can just hold on to their surface parking lots and wait, while the city dies.
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:37 AM on October 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


As I think people are figuring out it's really hard to parse non-income taxes across countries. That said it's pretty clear the the cost to carry a home in London is much lower than in NYC. Add into that a tax regime that is much much more friendly to non-doms and a mortgage system made up of high duration variable rate mortgages and it's pretty easy to see how it's ended up at it's current state of affairs.
posted by JPD at 7:39 AM on October 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


How can London at once be experiencing a shortage of reasonably-priced family housing and a shortage of state school seats, when the people buying the expensive houses surely have no kids in state schools?
posted by MattD at 7:39 AM on October 13, 2013


MattD- look at what mortgage rates are. That explains pretty much everything once you leave prime West London.
posted by JPD at 7:41 AM on October 13, 2013


Bonus babies look at the blueprints and put their money down with no intention of living in what they’ve bought — just collecting decades of rent.

That line made me laugh.
posted by IndigoJones at 7:42 AM on October 13, 2013


Stop snivelling. Of course you can't buy in Islington anymore. But you can buy a house/flat in London at a relatively affordable price. It just won't be in a spot where you're surrounded by the rich and the middle classes. Tottenham Hale? West Ham? Plaistow?
posted by Brian Lux at 8:22 AM on October 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


The property market in London is ridiculous. I'm English, and have just finished university; I've always lived in the south of England and nearly all of my friends and family live in or around London. I've recently moved up to the north of the country as I was offered a job up here. The housing situation is so different, I can rent a nice, spacious flat within walking distance of everything I need in the city for an amount that I'd really struggle to find a bedroom for in a shitty borough of London.

That's obviously a good thing for me (and I am grateful, especially as I'm hearing so many horror stories from friends in the south who've dared to move out of their parent's houses), but at the same time, I wish I didn't have to move away from everyone I know to manage to have a basic standard of living.
posted by Ned G at 8:29 AM on October 13, 2013


I think there must be an awful lot of people from northern England who have never seen living in London as something which they could or would do. It sometimes seems that Manchester is a second capital up here, being a place where living, working, and all the things that ought be available in London, are actually done. However important London may be in the world, it is slipping from sight in parts of England.
posted by Thing at 8:44 AM on October 13, 2013


The super rich don't pay stamp duty.

Very expensive houses are bought using an offshore shell company. No tax is due.
posted by gwildar at 8:45 AM on October 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've lived in Manchester, London and Brooklyn.

Manchester: cheap rent, cheap cost of living, high council tax and what I thought was good local services in the form of parks, recreation, museums, art and reasonable public transport.

Brooklyn: high rent, cheap cost of living, similiar taxation and much better local services. Better parks, better outdoor recreation areas (running tracks, pools, blew my mind away), more museums, galleries etc. and excellent public transport

London: higher rent still, expensive cost of living, less council tax and far better local services than the north. And far better public transport. And far better museums and galleries. Frustrating as it feels London still gets the lion share of investment in everything and up north we seem to get sweet-FA.
posted by 13twelve at 9:20 AM on October 13, 2013


And as for services, the minimal tax paid by those who have made property into money means that a city whose population has increased by 14 percent in the last decade can’t afford to build new schools. There will be a capacity shortfall of an estimated 90,000 places by 2015. Children won’t be turned away from school, but class sizes will grow to untenable proportions.

This is a problem but the explanation isn't correct. UK city and policy planners previously in decades past had a consensus about birth rates which seriously underestimated the birthdate today in London. it wasn't just higher fertility from higher immigration than expected but also native Londoners also surprisingly showed higher birth rates ( they were expected to be flat or decline , like in Germany). Sometimes this high birth rate is said to indicate confidence in the city.

Also, this NYT piece does not account for the growth of London's historically deprived inner city areas at the expense of some previously more desirable middle class commuter suburbs.
posted by Bwithh at 9:33 AM on October 13, 2013


The super rich don't pay stamp duty.

Of course they don't, what was I thinking? Especially not the boss of Google.
posted by colie at 9:37 AM on October 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Council Tax Assesments are often based on really out of date information. In Birmingham, where I used to live, the assessments were from around 1970. In 2008 this resulted in my moving from a crappy two up two down terrace in Harbourne to a ground floor flat in a beautiful Victorian semi-detached in Moseley/Kings Heath with a basement and large front and back garden and a member of the House of Lords/Baron as a neighbour and paying substantially less tax because in the 1970s my new residence was an immigrant slum while Harborne was posh.

Politics kept the assessments from being updated though you could request it if you felt you were getting charged unfairly but you would have to be really really dumb to challenge an assessment that was 35 years out of date unless a bomb had destroyed your neighbourhood or something.
posted by srboisvert at 9:40 AM on October 13, 2013


For much or even most of the 20th century, London was in industrial and population decline or was the target of anti-London govt policies or both:
In 1939 its population hit 8.6m. By then the belief that London was at once too rich and too poor, as well as too powerful, had taken hold. So whole neighbourhoods were bulldozed to clear slums; a Green Belt was established to stop it spreading; the construction of offices in central London was, in effect, banned. Meanwhile war battered the city, driving out people and industry. Manufacturing started to decline. The docks, London's core industry, were destroyed by container ships too deep for the river and by militant unions. The city went into a vicious cycle of decline. Schools emptied, crime rose and aspiring people left. By the late 1980s it had lost a quarter of its inhabitants.
posted by Bwithh at 9:41 AM on October 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bonus babies look at the blueprints and put their money down with no intention of living in what they’ve bought — just collecting decades of rent.

That line made me laugh.
posted by IndigoJones at 7:42 AM on October 13 [+] [!]



Um.... ironically, Maybe the end of the Thatcherite homeowner dream in London... And the rise of the Continental European model of most people in the middle and even professional classes renting?
posted by Bwithh at 9:44 AM on October 13, 2013


The docks... were destroyed by ... militant unions.

Yeah, I bet they were - according to 'The Economist'.
posted by colie at 9:44 AM on October 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


And the rise of the Continental European model of most people in the middle and even professional classes renting?

You misspelt 'feudal', though I would have accepted 'Dickensian'.
posted by jaduncan at 9:46 AM on October 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


No, of course he wouldn't be a slave.


He'd be an indentured servant.




Rule Britania, eh what?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:40 AM on October 13 [+] [!]


Um, that was an American colonial thing,
posted by Bwithh at 9:48 AM on October 13, 2013


"rise of the Continental European model of most people in the middle and even professional classes renting?"

I have a suspicion that tenants in continental Europe enjoy far better rights and protection from landlords than those in London... especially when you consider how many professional people are trying to get into London compared to, say, a small town in Switzerland?

In London, "Generation rent" has fewer rights than many European renters (astonishingly, tenants in California enjoy rent controls and better protection from capricious evictions.) "

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/jul/11/landlords-letting-agents-tenants-angry

posted by colie at 9:52 AM on October 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


And the rise of the Continental European model of most people in the middle and even professional classes renting?

You misspelt 'feudal', though I would have accepted 'Dickensian'.
posted by jaduncan at 9:46 AM on October 13 [+] [!]


For a long time ( and probably still is) a major UK liberal and left-leaning critique of the Thatcherite belief that everyone should save up and pursue homeownership and mortgages rather then rent for their whole life ( It is still core to the Conservative Party that widespread homeownership is a crucial foundation of a healthy society) was that this was actually corrosive and counterproductive for ordinary people's quality of life (e.g. obsession around house prices and paying off mortgages rather than broader civil society engagement) and the economy ( e.g. Reduced labour mobility)- they would point to the massive preference for renting for life on the Continent, e.g. Germany, as evidence .
posted by Bwithh at 9:56 AM on October 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cut rents in half and hand out assured tenancies, and I think the continental model of renting will be a goer.
posted by Thing at 9:58 AM on October 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Calls for greater fiscal autonomy and tax reform in London ; also: second link
posted by Bwithh at 10:20 AM on October 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


For a long time ( and probably still is) a major UK liberal and left-leaning critique of the Thatcherite belief that everyone should save up and pursue homeownership and mortgages rather then rent for their whole life ( It is still core to the Conservative Party that widespread homeownership is a crucial foundation of a healthy society) was that this was actually corrosive and counterproductive for ordinary people's quality of life

I agree. In the US the only thing that suburbanites talk about more than the best way to drive places is home maintenance. Cars and houses are pretty big albatrosses around the necks of a lot of people.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:44 AM on October 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


bquarters: "Although obviously people buying massively expensive properties and not living in them/working in the UK adds a complication factor as their money is not going back into general tax revenues...hmm."

This might be a dumb question, but apparently London does not charge a higher tax rate for non-owner-occupied residential properties? That's quite common in the U.S. (actually, it's a tax reduction for owner-occupied properties, rather than two separate rates, but it works out the same way).

"The property taxes on Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s $20 million London home come to £2,143.30 per year. That’s $3,430."

That's so shocking that I had to read it three times. This is literally what I pay in property taxes on my $120,000 house in the middle of nowhere. My property taxes are high by US standards, and I know council taxes fund way less stuff than US property taxes, but STILL.

srboisvert: "Politics kept the assessments from being updated though you could request it if you felt you were getting charged unfairly but you would have to be really really dumb to challenge an assessment that was 35 years out of date unless a bomb had destroyed your neighbourhood or something."

This seems literally insane. Where I live we get reassessed every decade, by law. How can you even have a property tax based on value of the property if those values are essentially totally random numbers??

So how much would raising the top rates (and/or adding more "bands"), updating the assessments, and charging a tax premium for non-owner-occupied properties help? At all? A lot?
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:59 AM on October 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Adding new top bands to Council Tax would likely help the most, at least in areas where there are a great deal of very expensive properties. However, local government funding comes mostly from central government, and really a thorough overhaul of local government funding (and its powers) is needed. Thankfully such a thing seems to be climbing the political agenda--see Bwithh last link above--but it's slow progress. We're only really back to where we were 40 years ago, or maybe not even that.
posted by Thing at 11:22 AM on October 13, 2013


Keeping housing prices at crazy levels is the official policy of the government: they're introducing 95% mortgages and keeping interest rates super low. The UK's economy is wrapped up in the southeastern housing market (look at all the propaganda reality home-buying shows on television). And of course they just hired the ex-bank of Canada head to run the BoE, who did all he could to keep the property bubble inflated here during his tenure.
posted by junco at 11:27 AM on October 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


35 years out of date

Last reevaluation in England was 1993, based on 1991 numbers. So 22 years, not 35.
Totally agree that it is crucial that the reevaluation process should be made automatic though ( every 10 years or whatever. )
posted by Bwithh at 11:42 AM on October 13, 2013


Bloomberg in London
posted by Bwithh at 11:48 AM on October 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


And new property valuations are backdated to estimated 1991 prices. It's pretty crazy but not random. But the highest charge is merely twice that of the average, and only 3 times that of the lowest.
posted by ambrosen at 11:54 AM on October 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I dearly hope someone kills the green belt.
posted by jaduncan at 2:47 PM on October 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


zabuni, if the Google boss buys a house for 30 million he will have to pay 2.1 million in tax at the time of purchase.

Google, taxes and the UK in the same sentence? How novel.
posted by reynir at 2:50 PM on October 13, 2013


There ought to be overblown property values where overblown property values ought to be?

This isn't really like previous London bubbles, where the demand was local and about people willing to live off Pot Noodles to get a deposit and onto the London property ladder early so that they could move up or move out with the profits. That was about houses as places to live as well as money-makers.

To fill out the "off-plan" thing: a group of property developers fly out to somewhere with a concentration of extremely rich people (Moscow, Middle East, SE Asia, basically the oligarchipeligo) and lay out a blueprint for a building. This building isn't built; it often doesn't even have planning permission. But it signs up X buyers for Y squillion quid, and planning permission and construction quickly follows.

This is crazy, and can't last, but when the bubble bursts, prices aren't going to reset to a point where London is affordable for anything other than renting and being screwed to varying degrees by absentee private-sector landlords and their management companies. Instead, you're going to have crappy buildings put up fast to generate rent income, or empty buildings owned by three-layer corporate shells that serve as a tax-avoidance vehicles for plutocrats.

One of the things I noticed when walking near Fashionable Shoreditch in the summer was a glut of new buildings that seemed impermanent in purpose: they could be student dorms, they could be shitty flats, and if those markets fell through, they could be converted into really shitty offices. They are buildings constructed with the sole purpose of extracting money from the city's residents.

If I return to the UK, it'll probably be to a northern city. Or to a Scotland that may by then be independent. As The River Ivel says, you can only drive out London's migrant workers so far out of the city while squeezing their wages and benefits and still expect the services they provide to keep running. Or perhaps it'll end up more like Sao Paulo than Singapore, with the wealthy helicoptering around town while the proles occupy the surface streets.
posted by holgate at 2:54 PM on October 13, 2013 [3 favorites]



I dearly hope someone kills the green belt.
posted by jaduncan at 2:47 PM on October 13 [+] [!]


or cut down it a lot. that is a policy well past its time
posted by Bwithh at 5:43 PM on October 13, 2013


Um, that was an American colonial thing

Under British law, and practiced in the West Indies, Africa, India, and elsewhere outside the jurisdiction of the colonies. Indentured servitude was not wholly abolished within the British Empire until 1917 when India prohibited the transportation of debtors to other colonies [source]. It was largely moot in the US by 1840 for various economic reasons favoring wage employment (though obviously the South had sharecropping and other coercive systems that survived long after the 14th Amendment).

It was true that in the American colonies the working conditions for indentured servants were far worse than those in household service in the UK (a la Downton Abbey). By the 17th century British masters could no longer beat their servants, but in the colonies laws only prohibited "excessive" corporal punishment.

/derail
posted by dhartung at 6:30 PM on October 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


I dearly hope someone kills the green belt.

Yeah. Who needs trees and parks and open spaces?
You'd miss it when it was gone.
posted by Mezentian at 8:25 PM on October 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


The green belt doesn't affect parks at all. It just says that London can't expand beyond a certain point.
posted by jaduncan at 11:22 PM on October 13, 2013


Having not come across the green belt before today, I find the whole idea charming. At least it puts limits on urban sprawl. Of course, I am also utterly charmed by the fact that London is lacking in ugly skyscrapers.

Of course, I don't have to live there either.
posted by Mezentian at 11:44 PM on October 13, 2013


Of course, I am also utterly charmed by the fact that London is lacking in ugly skyscrapers.

You might be thinking of a different London.
posted by Grangousier at 11:50 PM on October 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


My memory must be failing me, but aside from the Gherkin and the Laser Building of Death I remember ye olde Londiunium as being pretty sparing with skyscrapers.

I will assume City bankers are too blame.
posted by Mezentian at 12:35 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


London has always had an exodus, and an inflow. It has always been significantly more expensive than towns outside London. Back in 1777 Jonson wrote his oft quoted put down that "when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life." Families have always traded the convenience of being in London with the space and peace one gets outside London, and as a consequence the commuter belts of Surrey, Buckinghamshire, Essex, Kent etc date back decades. The exodus, for families, is not new. The inflow of young men and women seeking to start or progress their careers is also not new.

My London born mates scoff dismissively at woe-is-me middle class couples who weren't born in London and flee back to the shires when the bairns arrive. Because having a family in London is and has always been about accepting you won't have much space or a garden or rolling fields on your doorstep and enjoying what you do get. Without exception, my London born mates would trade living anywhere reasonable in London rather than move out.

Anyway, back on point. For many people, the high cost of London property means moving further out of town and gentrifying areas that were previously off limits - when Knightsbridge became silly money the first time round in the 60s Chelsea became fashionable. At the time, much of Fulham was a dump and nobody who was anybody lived south of the river in Battersea. In the 80s Chelsea had largely gentrified and rising house prices pushed the market out to Fulham, Battersea etc. The same thing has happened north, south east and west. House price inflation in the heart of London has created a ripple effect outwards and has meant whole swathes of London have gentrified in ways and places people wouldn't have imagined - million pound houses in Peckham or Willesden or Acton or Shoreditch. This, in itself, is not so much of an issue for the people that can afford it. They are generally just gentrifying place x rather than living in place y. The blunt impact is felt by private sector renters and would-be entrants to the housing market, who are now having to look at accomodation miles away from London. You know when Corby is being marketed as the ideal place to live and commute to London that things have got ridiculous.

House price inflation hasn't solely served what one would think of as the rich. It has also served the 1980s and early 90s middle class well, and those who bought inner city council property - people who bought an normal terraced house for £60k in 1990 and now find themselves in a newly gentrified area, and sitting on a £700k asset, all paid off. In short, rising house prices have led to a huge transfer of wealth from the young to the old - the high mortgages that home owners take out today fund the wealth of the baby boomers. There are plenty of people who got on the ladder at the right time who don't consider themselves the 1% who like that London's house prices are so high.

The real losers are anyone, young or old, who are already not on the property ladder. When I first moved to London in the late 90s I didn't buy immediately - my mistake. At the time I earned a decent but not stellar salary, £21k, and could have bought a one or two bed flat somewhere up and coming, once I'd got my deposit together, for about £80k. Those same sorts of flats are now more like £250-300k, and my old firm pays a starting salary of £26k for the role I did. Young graduates are hit three times - once house prices, a second time by a glut of graduates that depresses salaries outside high competition fields like law, banking and accountancy and a third time now by debts from tuition fees. Non-graduates are also hit - wages in some areas have also been depressed by cheaper labour from newer EU countries and they too can't hope to get on the property ladder.

IMHO, council taxes, which the article seems obsessed with and describes misleadingly, are the wrong place to look for the solution*. There are things that can be done - raising and revising thresholds, removing the discount for second home ownership - but the solution lies elsewhere. interest rates also are a blunt tool for dealing with house price inflation in one part of the country. The solution is taxing either the sale or purchase of prime property. The mechanisms for this, stamp duty and capital gains, were poor for a long time and have now been changed. Offshore companies cannot evade stamp duty with the ease they once did. It is now 15% for properties above £2m so there is a substantial cost to the investment. The new rules for this year also introduce a new capital gains tax for offshore companies. These rules are long overdue.

The damage has come from a combination of the big council house sell off, the relative lack of public and private sector house building in London for 30 years, and unwillingness from the beginning of the Thatcher era through Major and 10+ years of Labour through to now to not deal with issue of property as investment and its impact on the cost of living. The next target, which is equally important is the impact of second homes in pretty coastal towns, which have had an an even worse effect on house prices.

* The article also doesn't say why council taxes are so low in Westminster, which covers much of central London - they are subsidised by parking revenues and parking fines, from which Westminster makes a mint.
posted by MuffinMan at 3:27 AM on October 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


London is becoming to the UK as Singapore is to Malaysia: a rich city state surrounded by source of fungible cheap guest-workers.

It's also worth remembering that many well-off (not just super-rich) people in Singapore have live-in maids, nannies, cleaners, housekeepers etc as a matter of course. These women often sleep on a camp bed in the kitchen of the apartments they clean.

In the absence of good public transport, I expect London to follow this pattern, and further increase the virtual serfdom of lower-paid, lower class workers. Added to which, if you bring a migrant worker into the UK as a domestic servant, that person cannot switch employers without risking deportation - so you can pay them next to nothing, since they're terrified of being sent home.

In the developing world, many workers in labouring trades and similar jobs will sleep on the street or in temporary shelters. This could also be a good solution for the super-rich in London who require construction work to be done, but will not pay taxes for a class of workers to access the transport needed to commute in and out of the capital.
posted by colie at 4:04 AM on October 14, 2013


In the absence of good public transport, I expect London to follow this pattern,

London has pretty good public transport. Note: I live south of the river.
posted by MuffinMan at 4:14 AM on October 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


London has pretty good public transport.

I think The River Ivel was right upthread about its messiness, and the obvious scaling issues and choke points of the extended network. I wonder whether Crossrail will change things, although people have been buying up property near its construction and sucking up the mess for years in order to profit once it's done.

In the mid-90s, and when most of my peers headed to London after graduation, the pattern they followed was pretty standard: live in shared sub-student-standard houses (This Life with bad plumbing) for a few years while you're on trainee wages, and save as much as your social life will allow, put a deposit down on a shoebox once you're able (easier if by then you're in a long-term relationship, complicated if that falls apart), move up to a nicer flat a few years on, then perhaps a nicer semi or terrace in Zone 3/4 and either dig in while you have a family or start looking for somewhere in the commuter belt if you've done well.

That's for graduates from good universities going into well-paid professional jobs.
Miss out one of those steps, or have something go tits-up along the way, and you'll end up on the rent escalator instead. Come from outside London without a generous company relocation, and you're equally stuck. There will be some areas that get gentrified to accommodate these people, but that just drives out the working class, because the social housing base has been so eroded.

You know when Corby is being marketed as the ideal place to live and commute to London that things have got ridiculous.

That link courtesy of the Daily Mail, high church of the property-as-investment cult.
posted by holgate at 4:47 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was referring to the cost of commuting in and out of London, not traveling within it. The average annual cost for rail commuters coming into London was £3,800 last year. Which makes it not something that low-paid people can do, hence the 'who's going to clean the toilets/build the oligarch palaces?' thoughts.
posted by colie at 4:49 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


We are looking for a property in London to buy and it is pretty demoralizing if you want to live within 10km of central London. (which I would like to so that cycling everywhere is still an option).

Its weird when you know people who are buying in other cities around the world and see how far their money goes. My sister in law just bought a massive 3 floor row house in Philidephia for the price of a tiny and crappy ex-coucil flat on an estate! arggh.

E17 anyone?
posted by mary8nne at 6:26 AM on October 14, 2013


We are looking for a property in London to buy and it is pretty demoralizing

I have a friend who purchased in London.
Demoralising is just the start of your journey.

E17 anyone?

I'd rather shite 90s bands be left there.
posted by Mezentian at 7:04 AM on October 14, 2013


I live in E17. There are two identical flats to mine on my street for sale at the moment. The asking price is 56% more than what I paid for my flat 3 years ago, 40% more than the final sale price of the most recent flat to sell on the street, which was in July. It's nuts.

I moved back here partly because I thought it would never gentrify. I think I was wrong.

The lower paid workers won't move out, that's the escape of the middle class. They will live in illegal multi room tenancies and conversions in back gardens, or like the family's I used to work with in Westminster, three generations in one small council flat, with all the adults working at least one job. That's if the changes to housing benefit haven't got to them.
posted by Helga-woo at 4:01 PM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


The FT's Alphaville blog goes against the grain and says that there is a little discussed alump in London property prices, with Greater London prices 27% below their summer 2007 peak when adjusted for inflation (registration needed)
posted by Bwithh at 1:12 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, let's call a decrease from the most overheated housing market in living memory a "slump". I think that's what they call in the biz a "correction".
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:07 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


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