London is seen as a city of million-pound houses with the poverty overlooked.
According to the Centre for London, over 28 per cent of Londoners are classified as poor. The city has a higher child poverty rate – 37 per cent – than Glasgow. The capital has the richest but also some of the poorest communities in Britain. Half of the 20 areas in the country with the lowest rates of employment are in London. Two of the 10 most deprived boroughs in England are in London. These figures might have come from a soap opera myth of the North – but Ilford, Beckton, Barking and Edmonton are as poor as any old pit town. In 12 of the 33 boroughs in London, the poverty rate doubled from 1980 to 2010.
According to the sociologist Danny Dorling, the median Londoner is not much better off than the median Briton. London is remorselessly turning from a city of owners, to one of renters. Since 1996, average house prices have risen an extraordinary 281 per cent across the UK. In London, the figure is 501 per cent. By 2025 only 40 per cent of Londoners will be homeowners, down from 60 per cent in 1999, according to consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers. This is pricing out a generation from what is considered “middle class” – ie owning your own home. Just 26 per cent of Londoners currently aged 20-39 might own their homes in 2025.
Since 1980 the number of middle-income households has decreased by more than 43 per cent, whilst the number of rich and poor households has increased by 80 per cent. But British professionals have to dream about London. In 2013, a full 45 per cent of advertised graduate jobs were in the capital and since 2010 a full 79 per cent of private sector jobs created were there.
Drive round the A406, the ring road that separates inner London and outer London, and you will see 50 to 100 Eastern European labourers touting for work outside hangar-sized hardware stores. Insurance? Minimum wage? Forget it. Their wages are what they can haggle for, like the 1930s. By night, most of these men will sleep in cramped dosshouses. A Romanian labourer, cooped up in his bunk under a moulding ceiling, said the life he had found in London felt like prison.