Richer Londoners are being priced out of their homes, too. Here’s why that matters

The new squeezed middle? Belgravia in 2013. Image: Getty.

I have witnessed the devastating impacts of gentrification first hand. As part of my research, I spent many years living in inner-city estates in London, interviewing the impoverished tenants who made their homes there. Over and over, I was told that they could not recognise the place where they had grown up, that it was all different, they could not afford it anymore, and that they felt as though it was no longer “theirs”.

Traditionally, research into urban issues has focused on the effects of poverty and deprivation on the fabric of our society. But recently, there has been a growing interest in urban elites – and I was privileged enough to work on the very first project to investigate the effects of wealth in London.

Specifically, I focused on the impact of global financial capital flows on the most exclusive areas of London, from Chelsea to Hampstead. Throughout that time, I uncovered stories I was not expecting at all. Like this one, from Samantha – a wealthy and successful woman planning to move out of her flat in Mayfair.

Our street was one of the nicest streets in Mayfair and it is just gone and it’s because people park their money there, people have started moving out because they don’t like it.

Clearly, Samantha felt as though the area around her had changed: that her neighbours had gone, that the houses around her were being bought up and left empty and that she didn’t belong there anymore.

I heard a similar story from Roger, a retired professional who was contemplating leaving Hampstead. Mainly, this was because of the trouble he was having with neighbours digging bigger and deeper basements – creating so-called “iceberg houses” – which take years to complete, and change the area entirely in the process.

Even after the basements are done, if they’ll ever be done, the place is not the same anymore. The new people are not interested in the local community, they don’t use the local shops, their kids don’t go to the same schools – which are likely to be private, of course, but not as exclusive as those of the incomers. They are being pushed out. What will they do, I ask? We’ll probably end up selling, I think. We don’t want to, but that’s what we’ll do.

Does this sound strangely familiar? It did to me, when I first heard it. Different accents, different words, but the same story. We are used to thinking about the housing crisis in London as something that only happens outside the exclusive enclaves of Mayfair, Belgravia, Knightsbridge and Chelsea.


Of course, the traditional elites who have always inhabited these well-to-do areas are certainly not suffering a “crisis” of any sort. But they are moving out and cashing in on the exorbitant price rises, fuelled by what are technically known as ultra high net worth individuals – a label that refers to people worth at least US$30m in disposable assets, who are increasingly choosing London as the place to be, play and invest.

As a result, the well-heeled residents of London’s wealthiest districts are experiencing something akin to displacement – a phenomenon with which the tenants of south London’s estates are all too familiar.

But these similarities only extend up to a point, of course. A very, very big point.

Rippling out

Many of those in Hampstead and Mayfair who begin to feel unwelcome and unhappy in their own neighbourhoods decide to move. In doing so, they unlock millions of pounds of equity in their houses, leaving them very well positioned to relocate elsewhere. This is obviously not comparable with the position of the low-income residents who are being displaced, priced out and “regenerated out” of their homes, estates and communities.

These people are often pushed further toward London’s outskirts – or even out of the city entirely – and many councils don’t even care to keep track of where they end up. The work done by the community-run Southwark Notes site is a rare and valuable resource. Their graphic, below, shows where the community of south London’s former Heygate Estate have been displaced to, as a result of the local council’s regeneration efforts. Developers Lend Lease have bought the site from Southwark Council for £50m, and stand to make a profit of £194m.

Displacement from the former Heygate Estate. Image: Selven Victor-Poonoosamy/Southwark Notes, CC BY.

Based on my ongoing research, I believe there is a connection between these two phenomena. When wealthy residents move out of their homes, they often also buy, or help to buy, smaller places for their children. These properties may be slightly outside of their “comfort zone”: for instance, they may be in Battersea rather than Chelsea, Fitzrovia rather than Mayfair.


The overall effect is a substantial price inflation in these relatively cheaper areas, which forces the existing residents to move further out. This effect ripples outward, as increasingly financially vulnerable people are displaced by price increases, eventually reaching as far afield as Camberwell or Catford.

As a result, London may be experiencing a very different kind of “trickle down” effect from the one politicians of various colours and persuasions have promised. This one involves price inflation, general unaffordability, the breakdown of communities and displacement – chosen by the few who can sell, and imposed upon the many who cannot.

These are the results of setting deliberate policies that promote and encourage London as the place to invest global capital in real estate. Until we decide at the political level that London is a city for people to live in, rather than capital to grow in, this trend is unlikely to change.The Conversation

Luna Glucksberg is a research associate at Goldsmiths, University of London

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

 
 
 
 

There isn’t a war on the motorist. We should start one

These bloody people. Image: Getty.

When should you use the horn on a car? It’s not, and anyone who has been on a road in the UK in living memory will be surprised to hear this, when you are inconvenienced by traffic flow. Nor is it when you are annoyed that you have been very slightly inconvenienced by another driver refusing to break the law in a manner that is objectively dangerous, but which you perceive to be to your advantage.

According to the Highway Code:

“A horn should only be used when warning someone of any danger due to another vehicle or any other kind of danger.”

Let’s be frank: neither you nor I nor anyone we have ever met has ever heard a horn used in such a manner. Even those of us who live in or near places where horns perpetually ring out due to the entitled sociopathy of most drivers. Especially those of us who live in or near such places.

Several roads I frequently find myself pushing a pram up and down in north London are two way traffic, but allow parking on both sides. This being London that means that, in practice, they’re single track road which cars can enter from both ends.

And this being London that means, in practice, that on multiple occasions every day, men – it is literally always men – glower at each other from behind the steering wheels of needlessly big cars, banging their horns in fury that circumstances have, usually through the fault of neither of them, meant they are facing each other on a de facto single track road and now one of them is going to have to reverse for a metre or so.

This, of course, is an unacceptable surrender as far as the drivers’ ego is concerned, and a stalemate seemingly as protracted as the cold war and certainly nosier usually emerges. Occasionally someone will climb out of their beloved vehicle and shout and their opponent in person, which at least has the advantages of being quieter.

I mentioned all this to a friend recently, who suggested that maybe use of car horns should be formally restricted in certain circumstances.

Ha ha ha. Hah.

The Highway Code goes on to say -

“It is illegal to use a horn on a moving vehicle on a restricted road, a road that has street lights and a 30 mph limit, between the times of 11:30 p.m. and 07:00 a.m.”

Is there any UK legal provision more absolutely and comprehensively ignored by those to whom it applies? It might as well not be there. And you can bet that every single person who flouts it considers themselves law abiding. Rather than the perpetual criminal that they in point of fact are.


In the 25 years since I learned to drive I have used a car horn exactly no times, despite having lived in London for more than 20 of them. This is because I have never had occasion to use it appropriately. Neither has anyone else, of course, they’ve just used it inappropriately. Repeatedly.

So here’s my proposal for massively improving all UK  suburban and urban environments at a stroke: ban horns in all new cars and introduce massive, punitive, crippling, life-destroying fines for people caught using them on their old one.

There has never been a war on motorists, despite the persecution fantasies of the kind of middle aged man who thinks owning a book by Jeremy Clarkson is a substitute for a personality. There should be. Let’s start one. Now.

Phase 2 will be mandatory life sentences for people who don’t understand that a green traffic light doesn’t automatically mean you have right of way just because you’re in a car.

Do write in with your suggestions for Phase 3.