London is currently the region with the highest wealth inequality in Britain, and by a long way. The richest 20% of people own 80% of all asset wealth, while the other 80% share the remainder. This situation is not improving either; inequality is rising at a shocking rate, with the so-called “recovery” only benefiting the wealthiest fifth of Britons. “Good for the economy” seems less and less like “good for the people” and more and more like “good for the rich”.The changes happening in London are clear wherever you go, with shiny towers and expensive flats rising up across the south and east, and town centres (Brixton, Brockley, Lewisham, Deptford, Stratford) unrecognisable, either already glassed over or filled with cranes and scaffolding. It might seem stupid to outside observers that Londoners would complain about the “improvements” being made to their city. Surely new facilities, new more attractive housing, new jobs in the financial industry, are all good things. It would be ridiculous to complain about change if it were making things better. But the truth of the matter is that gentrification is not making things better, but pushing out, sweeping under the carpet the places and people that are already here. The soaring cost of living is pushing Londoners out of the city, so that it can be redesigned by rich professionals from Berkshire. London’s middle class is being destroyed, either escaping into the ranks of the super-rich or falling into the poverty trap. You needn’t look further than Lewisham to see examples of what is happening. The areas around Lewisham and Deptford stations are under extensive redevelopment; the Deptford Project – headed by Cathedral Group PLC – has been particularly unpopular. A video was released to advertise the Deptford Project, outlining the details of the development. It explained that the Project is aimed at “high earning individuals”, with rapid train links to London Bridge and facilities inside the tower so that the residents need not venture out into actual Deptford. The video was taken off YouTube with a dislike bar looking like Darth Vader’s lightsaber. Construction was even postponed in the face of local opposition, although it is now near completion. The housing projects in Lewisham are very similar, one boasting a 13 minute journey to Canary Wharf. The advertising for both is clearly aimed at non-residents, people moving in from outside London to work in the City.
The redevelopment taking place across London is proudly held up by both the Conservative Mayor and Prime Minister, despite widespread protest. The famous New Era Estate campaign late last year and the March for Homes demonstration outside City Hall at the end of January were both obvious signs that people across London are unhappy with the situation. Day after day more legislation is passed to keep rents and house prices high, all under the banner of “Affordable Housing”. Last year, the “Help to Buy” scheme helped to keep housing unaffordable to normal Britons. What was framed as a scheme to benefit the middle classes was actually a policy intended to prevent the housing bubble from bursting, which will mean that those who don’t own property now have less prospect of ever owning property. This month new laws were passed allowing people to let out property for less than three months, which will push rents up further.
London is being stolen from Londoners and handed to the rich. The growing cost of living is beginning to push normal people over the poverty line or out of London all together. Prospects for young people feel very bleak, with a future in the city seeming increasingly unrealistic. Leaving home is becoming an impossibility, with even teachers and nurses unable to afford a house or a flat of their own. If the rise in house prices does not stop, inequality will continue to rise, and a lot of Londoners will lose their homes. Gentrification is not improvement, it is destruction.
Super safe for reading! ESSY xx