There are worrying signs that the high cost of housing in London are pushing key groups into relocating outside the capital.
An analysis of figures from the Office for National Statistics, undertaken by campaign group Generation Rent, concludes that in the year to June 2015, London experienced a net loss of 77,520 people. This figure, deducting arrivals from those actually moving away, has increased year on year since the data was first collected in 2011.
The outward migration is up 50% since 2012, with the largest group leaving being the 30-39 year olds, and children under 10. Among thirtysomethings, there was a net loss of 30,410 people who moved to elsewhere in the UK. Emigration is also starting to rise as a phenomenon, among those in their late 20s.
Notes the report: “What is concerning is that this emigration is accelerating. It means that more people are deciding London is not a long term option. It is no coincidence that this great escape has occurred during a period when house prices in London rose by 37%, compared to 16% in the UK as a whole, and rents rose by 10%, compared to 4% outside London. It is getting harder to enjoy a decent standard of living in London, or save for a better one, when your landlord is taking more of your money.”
Generation Rent says that high housing costs are a major reason cited for people leaving the capital. And there is a knock-on effect for employers, who struggle to attract employees with the right skills to fill posts.
Say the report’s authors: “One thing that would let London retain its skills, preserve its communities and continue to flourish is simple: lower rents. To achieve this long term, London needs more homes – but until enough are built high rents will inflict more damage on London and Londoners.”
Generation Rent has called on London mayor Sadiq Khan to implement a number of measures to help, including rent controls for the private rental sector, currently providing more than two million homes in the capital.
LPA Perspective: These figures are not just one season, they do appear to be demonstrating a growing trend. The mayor appears to be working as well as he can to tackle housing provision, across a number of areas, but he has picked up a task made all the larger by the fact that many previous administrations have failed to grasp it adequately.
And while Generation Rent has used the figures to support its agenda, calling for better terms for those renting residential property, the statistics do appear to make a clear point about London leaching a greater number of its incumbents. Close to two thirds of those leaving are moving to the south east, possibly into a situation where commuting to the capital becomes part of life: more than a third of the net loss is to further afield.
London has basked in the limelight as the capital of cool for the last few years. However, Brexit, further delays over Heathrow, and former chancellor Osborne’s housing tax takes are all issues that diminish that glow. And meantime, other UK cities are pushing hard to improve their attractiveness, whether that powerhouse is Northern, or in the Midlands. The capital’s planners need to get moving on the many levers they can pull, to help improve housing delivery.