The Parisian arriving in London by train alights at a resplendent station. St Pancras, and the adjacent King’s Cross, make Gare du Nord look like a provincial hub. The surrounding area, once a ramshackle collection of properties, is gleaming with new hotels, offices and prime accommodation. It is a clear sign of how London’s economic geography has changed in the 21st century. The inner city has developed rapidly. Poverty is moving to the outskirts of the capital. As its core grows faster than its periphery, London is becoming more like Paris.
In the capital, about half of households rent. The other half own.
At present, the official of national statistics’ monthly house price data are a cause of mixed emotions; there needs to be a psychological term for renters’ remorse.
The chart below marks a moment in the history of English housing:
At least since Michael Goldfarb’s incendiary op-ed in the New York Times, there has been discussion about a “great exodus” from London. This chart shows that there is nothing new in recent history about net internal emigration from the capital; young people come for work and to find love, and they leave – if everything goes to plan – with a job, a mortgage adviser, and a partner.
Boris Johnson’s speech on Wednesday night to the Centre for Policy Studies is receiving attention for his comments on cornflakes. In a robust defence of free market capitalism, the London mayor argued that it is the only way to ensure cornflakes, a metaphor for humans, can “rustle and hustle their way to the top”. As ever, it is a rollicking read, perhaps the best recent defence of Margaret Thatcher’s legacy. As ever, on display is a rare example of honest vibrancy in a politician’s language. And as ever, Mr Johnson shows a tendency to come empirically adrift on a sea of his own loquacity.
Urban planning in the later 19th and 20th centuries could be considered a story of two utopias. The first was the garden city movement, which was opposed to urban sprawl, sceptical of central government, fond of local democracy and encouraging of private capital. The second was the modernism of some post-war planners, which favoured large and often tall estates in the heart of cities, or New Towns just outside, both funded by central government. This is a crude distinction but a genuine one, and its story is told well by David Kynaston in Austerity Britain, among other books. In general, conservatives are more likely to become misty-eyed about tales of Letchworth and Weleyn Garden Cities, while those on the left extol the virtues of new towns such as Milton Keynes.
David Cameron announced the figures in the Sun, which shows a picture of him next to a snap of Margaret Thatcher promoting her Right to Buy scheme. It should not take too long to figure out the prime minister’s preferred interpretation of the first figures relating to the mortgage guarantee scheme: the only bubble Help to Buy is inflating is one of happiness in the hearts of ordinary people.
A chart from Savills suggests that those using Help to Buy to purchase their first home will be quite different in the south of the UK from in the north. In the south, the beneficiaries may well end up being income rich, deposit poor. That is unless the lower end of the London property market has been distorted by high loan-to-value mortgages and Help to Buy opens it up. David Cameron tweeted today that the scheme will help many people on an “average wage” but I suspect most of them will be found outside the capital.
It says here that London prices are rising 10 times as fast as those in the rest of the country. It doesn’t sound like there is a great need for Help to Buy where you are.
Is that in the FT? I only read its House and Home section.