London’s Burning…

…Fetch The Engine: Fire Fire!

I’m amazed that anyone under 35 with legs in their trousers and another language up their sleeve has not left the UK’s absurdly overpriced capital. Over 50% of Londoners own their home (nearly half without a mortgage), but at 26%, market renters are rapidly on the rise, overcrowded, in poverty and not well served. Half a million quid will barely get you a one-bed in London, but will get you a luxury penthouse in the centre of Rotterdam, minutes from beaches and the countryside, or a big new house in booming Bordeaux. [In case you are wondering about relative earnings, my understanding is that the household budget capacity for buying a first home in Bordeaux is similar to that of the average London household]. London’s Mayor might be in charge of the city’s fire brigade, but has limited water to pour on this fire. The key factors are land ownership (a lot of London’s land is no longer in city control and hard to wrest back), capacity to build (which lies largely with a few private sector operators), and public funding and tax policy (controlled from the centre). Empowered mayors can matter a great deal, as my next post on Bordeaux’s renaissance will show. London’s voters must campaign for their new mayor to have the power to pour on water, for all our sakes. Or the young will keep fleeing to Berlin and Bristol. And when my local café turns into a soulless Starbucks I’ll come and join them.

GFOLPS: It’s going to be 350 years since London’s Other Great Fire next year. What better time to vote for a healthy dose of cold water.