London is a world city, and for centuries has had a cost of living differential. However, unsustainable rising property prices and ever-increasing levels of income inequality are beginning the change the very fabric of the city.
“Dr Rowland Atkinson, an urban studies expert at York University, says it is no longer fanciful to equate London with Paris, with the poor banished to distant suburbs, or subsisting in the centre.”
There is a way out of this problem, but it requires a belief in rebalancing public and private rights. For public rights and the public good to become strong social forces again, there needs to be a limit to private rights, and especially to private property rights. In practice this means a strong programme of building social housing, taking on nimbyism and anti-Keynsian vested interests, and a town planning system that has been given back its teeth and muscle.
This is not just a ‘London issue’. A disfunctional, unequal, unsustainable London is bad for the UK in many ways.
For example, the scale of public money in transport infrastructure spending in and around London bleeds billions away from the rest of the UK, to prop up a system where working people commute two hours each way because they cannot afford to live closer, passing empty homes which are ‘investments’ for rich people around the world. Close down the North East and build another CrossRail? We need to insist on buying and building social housing at the scale of genuine social impact, even in Westminster.