London’s Insane Housing Bubble – and the Sickening Greed that is Strangling the Capital

Everywhere I look in London, monstrous new housing developments are rearing up — unaffordable to most working people, and largely bought up by foreign investors. While some take up residence, others leave their investments empty or join the frenzy of home-grown landlords in the buy-to-let market, fleecing an ever-increasing percentage of London’s workforce, who simply cannot afford to buy a property and have no choice but to cough up whatever outrageous amount they are asked to pay by landlords who have been unregulated since the days of Margaret Thatcher, the great liberator of unfettered greed.

This is the new London, in which those involved in new housing developments act as pimps for rich foreigners and for Britain’s own wealthiest property owners, and struggling British workers are preyed on by their fellow citizens, in a market driven by the greedy sense of entitlement that motivates far too many landlords, and a housing bubble kept inflated by the government and the Bank of England, whose refusal to raise interest rates is the primary driver of an economy in which profiteering on housing is seen, by far too many people, as their only viable investment.

However, the situation is now so dire that last week a YouGov poll commissioned by the Evening Standard — normally nothing more than a front for the mortgage industry — revealed that “[h]alf of Londoners want house prices to fall.” Read the rest of this entry »

The Housing Crisis and the Gulf Between the Rich and the Poor: Half of UK Workers Earn Less Than £14,000 A Year

Note: For US readers, £14,000 is approximately $22,000.

In a new series, Breadline Britain, the Guardian is examining how the Tory-led government’s cuts are impacting on British families and individuals, and on the first day of the ongoing series, Amelia Hill provided an overview of the project, which has involved the Guardian commissioning a comprehensive study of the household finances of those in employment (or who are self-employed). As her introductory article explained:

Almost 7 million working-age adults are living in extreme financial stress, one small push from penury, despite being in employment and largely independent of state support … Unlike the “squeezed middle”, these 3.6m British households have little or no savings, nor equity in their homes, and struggle at the end of each month to feed themselves and their children adequately. They say they are unable to cope on their current incomes and have no assets to fall back on, leaving them vulnerable to something as simple as an unexpectedly large fuel bill.

Frank Field, the Labour MP for Birkenhead and former welfare minister, told the Guardian, “These figures are a mega-indictment on the mantra of both political parties, that work is the route out of poverty. What’s shocking about this is that these are people who want to work and are working but who, despite putting their faith in the politicians’ mantra, find themselves in another cul-de-sac. Recent welfare cuts and policy changes make it difficult to advise these people where they should turn to get out of it: it really is genuinely shocking.” Read the rest of this entry »

Rents Out of Control: How Londoners Are Being Fleeced by Greedy Landlords

Yesterday, in my article bemoaning the baleful effect on London of hosting the Olympic Games, I touched upon a story that had emerged last week, when the BBC reported that tenants in east London were being evicted as their landlords sought to cash in on the Olympics, charging up to 20 times the normal rent. The BBC noted that one estate agent “said properties typically rented for £350 per week were being marketed for £6,000 per week,” and the housing charity Shelter said it had “seen increasing evidence of landlords giving tenants little time to leave or increasing rents hugely during the Olympics,” and worried that “the situation will get worse as the Games approach.”

This is pretty disgusting, although it should come as no surprise really, as Britain has, over my lifetime, became a country where any means of making money is regarded as laudable, and wealth is, in many ways, the only barometer of success.

However, even without this particularly excessive behaviour brought on by the Olympics, the rental market in London is out of control. A shortage of housing, an excess of demand, the eradication of empathy, and the casual greed that underpins the buy-to-let mentality has meant that families and individuals unable to get on a housing ladder that is out of reach for many people — as prices in London and the south east remain outrageously high — are being thoroughly fleeced by landlords who are not bound by any rules and regulations, and who can — and often do — treat them with disdain while milking them of half their wages or more. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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