With just under a month to go until London votes for a new Mayor, and less than a week until City A.M. hosts a packed-out hustings between the two main candidates, one familiar issue has raised its rather ugly head – the soaring cost of living in our capital.
Some housing market analysts believe that government measures targeted at buy to let landlords will weigh down on London’s inflated house prices. Yet many estate agents report strong demand (and weak supply) in the opening quarter of the year.
Our younger readers may be familiar with weekend “open days” in London’s less-than-salubrious neighbourhoods, where packs of couples shuffle awkwardly around one or two-bedroom flats, too embarrassed by the absurd asking prices to even exchange eye contact. The cost of a home for a typical first-time buyer soared by 9.8 per cent in the year to February, according to new data released by Haart estate agents.
And the problem is not limited to those Londoners endeavouring to get a foot on the housing ladder. Over the past three years, the capital has experienced the slowest growth in average wages of any part in the UK, but the fastest increases in the cost of renting. Rents in London jumped by 3.3 per cent every 12 months between 2012 and 2015.
It is an issue that affects low-income workers, young people moving to London, and shorter-term foreign workers who do not want to put down roots in the UK. Many sectors of our city’s economy will be stifled by this pressure on crucial elements of the workforce, and so it was little surprise yesterday when a group of business leaders signed a public letter demanding a solution to the housing crisis. Sir Martin Sorrell, John Holland-Kaye, and Baroness Martha Lane Fox were among the signatories.
Sadiq Khan and Zac Goldsmith will be quizzed on many business-related subjects at next Tuesday’s City A.M. hustings, but there can be no doubt that housing costs are a threat to London’s economy, as well as a broader social problem. The next mayor must not hide behind platitudes or numbers pulled from thin air – something needs to change, and the candidates should be bold enough to lay out exactly what it is that they would do differently.