If you are interested in the prices of properties in London and look at the most popular websites (you know which ones) there are many different options for housing across the capital. I came across recently to the following advert from the properties on sale: a new and furnished flat in Knightsbridge for the small amount of only £59,999,999!
While this and many more other flats are being luxurious and unoccupied due to their outrageous prices, living in a comfortable, affordable home is not to be taken for granted by anyone in London. Living costs in London have gone through the roof (pardon the pun) in recent years and with cost increase, standards are ever decreasing. In Britain, every 11 minutes a family loses their home [Shelter 2014]. In addition to this, 4 million families could be just one pay check away from being homeless. These statistics are only small part of the emerging housing crisis Britain warmly offers to its citizens.
The shockingly expensive flats and all the families losing their homes can be explained with two phenomena – foreign investment and social cleansing. It has not yet been decided which one contributes the most to the ongoing housing crisis but it can be explained how they have occurred. One of the phenomena – foreign investing, is most popular in the English capital mainly due to the deep historical, social and cultural consequences or in other words – globalization. Many investors from China, Singapore, Korea and others have increased the volume of the property market ownership in Central London in 2014 to 24.6 billion pounds [Cushman & Wakefield]. The high costs of the properties let by the investors leave low-income families with no choice but move to cheaper areas in outer London. This process is called social cleansing. It can be easily stated that social cleansing is an element of the unequal distribution of the wealth ‘puzzle’, which picture represents 1% of the population owning 50.4% of the household wealth [Treanor 2015].
The government’s policy choices are also not helping and only triggered the start of many housing movements and campaigns. There has been a slight improvement in local councils in London if we look at their attempts to build more houses. Take for example Barnet, a North London borough, which is expected to increase its population with almost a hundred thousand people, has promised to build 27,000 homes [Barnet Council Housing strategy 2015]. However, in the past five years none were build, hence the growing level of homelessness. And, to make things worse, some councils across Britain have been closing due the the simple fact that they are empty.
People who work and receive an average wage have to spend around 50% of their wages on rent, whereas young people aged between 16-24 have to spend 88% of their earnings to afford a home [Tenure of household in England 2015]. Many will find savings impossible whereas some are one step away from losing their job. Shelter says “serious illness can be all it takes to tip someone into a spiral that ends in homelessness” [Allen 2014] Homelessness, especially among young people is vastly stretching to a level where charities are not being able to keep up with the demand.
- Shelter Scotland 2014, Statistics
[Available online at http://scotland.shelter.org.uk/home/real_stories/statistics]
- Allen, K. 2014, Shelter says homelessness is stretched to the limit
[Available online at http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/jul/22/shelter-homeless-helpline-stretched-limit]
- Department for Communities and Local Government 2015, English Housing Survey Households 2013-2014
[Available online at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/461439/EHS_Households_2013-14.pdf]
- Cushman & Wakefield, The Residential Brief November 2015
[Available online at http://www.cushmanwakefield.com/~/media/reports/uk/The%20Residential%20Brief%20-%20November%202015%20New.pdf]
- Barnet Council Housing Strategy 2015, Final Draft
[Available online at http://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/documents/s26449/Appendix%20A-%20Housing%20Strategy.pdf]
- Treanor, J. 2015 Half of World’s Wealth Now in Hands of 1% Population – Report [Available online at http://www.theguardian.com/money/2015/oct/13/half-world-wealth-in-hands-population-inequality-report]