It’s naive to praise London for its quality of life
A new survey of ‘high net-worth adults’ ranked it number one in the world
Another day, another ringing endorsement of the quality of life in London. Yesterday, 90,000 people shared a Daily Mail article which decreed that London offers the greatest quality of life. Out of every city. In the entire world.
Sure, London is worthy of a lot of awards, but a lot of Londoners probably won’t agree with this one. In fact, most of them would probably tell you the living standards here are actually pretty shit – anyone who, like the average Londoner, regularly forks out two-thirds of their salary on rent would be keen to testify.
So how can a city in the depths of a housing crisis, a place which has literally been named “the most expensive city in the world” to live and work, really claim to offer a quality of life to rival the likes of Amsterdam, Madrid and Milan? Well, it’s because the people they asked are rich.
The research surveyed 5,200 “well-educated, high net-worth adults” from 16 countries around the world, and therein lies the problem. London’s great if the lease on your house in Fitzrovia still allows you to dine out on Gaucho three times a week, but for those of us whose net-worth is as minuscule as our sombre Bethnal Green kitchens, it’s a different story.
Don’t get me wrong, I love London. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who lives here who doesn’t. The reality, though, is that making ends meet as a graduate in London is hard – or at least, harder than Manchester or Cardiff or Birmingham or Leeds. Rent in London is now a record eight per cent higher than the rest of the UK – I challenge you to find me someone paying less than £800 a month. If they want a living room, at least.
If they want to stay in the city, stratospheric house prices mean most young Londoners wouldn’t even dream about owning their own place. Meanwhile, wealthy overseas investors have been buying up land in London as if their oil money is burning a hole in their pockets, with less than a third of new properties in Central London going to UK buyers.
“The UK property market is being used as an investment vehicle by the global super-rich – and increasingly the simply well-to-do,” say free-market organisation Civitas, while Sadiq Khan called it “complete madness” that “London is in the middle of a severe housing crisis, yet there are around 50,000 empty homes across the city.” The number of “working poor” in London has risen 70 per cent in the last 10 years, following the patterns of gentrification in areas like Brixton, Hackney and Peckham.
It’s a phenomenon which has been blamed for a general eroding of culture in the capital, too – the closure of superclub Fabric earlier this year being just one tragedy pinned on the ruthless London property market. London’s culture has been directly affected by the trends, with clubs closing left, right and centre and even broadsheets like the Guardian lamenting the city’s “Shoreditchification.”
Londoners apparently spend £2,500 a year on lunch alone. Two in five Londoners say they’re in a constant state of stress. A quarter of Londoners admit to suffering from loneliness. Yet still, the population growth in the capital is double that of anywhere else in the UK. For a vast amount of young people in Britain, they don’t (or won’t) see an alternative.
It’s understandable. Most people in the city will tell you every penny spent on rent, taxes and overpriced coffee is worth it for the everyday joys that London brings: evenings spent drinking passionfruit-flavoured lager on vibesy Dalston rooftops; sitting at the front of the DLR and pretending you’re the driver; stumbling upon a canal and just thinking to yourself, “ah, there’s a canal.” It’s the little things.
There’s something visceral about being a part of it, and most graduates who could live like a king elsewhere will happily fork out four grand a year on commuting alone just to be able to call themselves a Londoner. Don’t try and tell us it’s the best city in the world for quality of life, though – it isn’t, and we know we could live more comfortably elsewhere.
Most of us just don’t want to.