As the line 2 train slides away from the platform at Barbès Rochechouart station, a giant white brushstroke of a building on the otherwise fairly tattered canvas of Paris’ 18th arrondissement catches you by surprise. With its gleaming two-storey exterior and eye-watering prices, recently opened Brasserie Barbès sticks out like a sore thumb, and has been the symbol of a problem shared by the city of light’s neighbour on the other end of the Eurostar track: gentrification.
As in France’s capital, London has seen a recent trend in traditionally less-expensive, culturally diverse areas becoming increasingly unaffordable to live or trade in. Now the third most expensive city to live in in the world, several pressures, such as the government’s latest right-to-buy proposals, could further threaten the already narrow selection of available properties by reducing the amount of social housing and genuinely affordable homes. As a result, the dream of many university students to graduate and start work in the city is now rapidly becoming nothing more than fantasy. Unless, of course, you quite fancy the idea of living in a shed in someone’s living room in order to avoid commuting every morning from your parents’ house in the home counties.
26 per cent of soon-to-be graduates are reportedly considering Moving abroad
If you do manage to find somewhere more habitable, company Graduate Fasttrack have estimated what the living costs look like for a graduate on the annual average salary of between £19,935 and £22,707. Factoring in rent in Clapham – an area of the city becoming ever more popular for recent graduates – travel using an Oyster card, and bills, you’d be left with around £13.01 a day. With this, you’d need to feed yourself and pay for everything else you might want to do besides staying at home in your new flat.
It’s no surprise, then, that swathes of young people are opting to stay away from London entirely, turning their attention to foreign cities to find jobs, or to press snooze on starting careers until further down the line. According to a study by 1StopShip, 26 per cent of soon-to-be graduates are reportedly considering moving abroad, saying they would do so because of the high cost of rent in the UK. Destinations that are pulling graduates away from Britain include cities that you wouldn’t necessarily even consider cheap; New York, Sydney, L.A., Melbourne and Beijing being the most popular choices. With the majority of those surveyed saying they would stay away for up to 5 years, London, and indeed the UK, are likely to be faced with a worryingly lack of graduate talent to contribute to the country’s economy.
If on the other hand, you graduate, choose to give London a go, and manage to find somewhere affordable to live, you’d still be hard pushed to escape the effects of gentrification. Say you were out trying to find somewhere to spend your £13.01 one day. If you were to look at trends in food and drink culture in London, you could easily get the impression that the city’s traditional meal is composed of a brioche-bun pulled-pork burger, washed down with a flat white. This summer, angry Londoners vandalised Shoreditch’s infamous new Cereal Killer Café, outraged at the fact that they’re making a living selling £3.50 bowls of cereal while local businesses are being forced to close.
Whilst it might be unfair to vent frustrations on an independent business also trying, like many others, to make money out of a quirky idea, it’s worth noting the bigger issues such ventures represent. If high-priced hipster concepts are one of the only ways to make money, it’s no surprise that you can now put the words ‘Brixton’ and ‘champagne’ in the same sentence. The effect that high rents have on vendors and businesses that are being squeezed out of the capital goes hand in hand with the rise in luxury flat developments, pop-up ‘artisanal’ cafés and high-end eateries.
If you chose to dine on Shoreditch’s finest bowl of breakfast cereal, you might then consider where to spend your remaining £9.51 in one of London’s great nightlife venues. You may need to go sooner rather than later if you want to experience an iconic night at 600-year-old pub The George Tavern, given its difficult battle over the last few years to avoid closure because of sky-high rents. Its neighbouring club, Stepney’s, was recently bought and is now in the process of becoming, you guessed it, luxury flats. Elsewhere, underground venues that host LGBTQ nights have been forced to close their doors for the same reasons, bringing us closer towards a city whose only nightlife offerings will consist of roof-top cocktail parties and “chart-topper” club nights.
It’s difficult, as a student, to see any tangible way to disrupt these problems. Protestors from the group ‘Reclaim Brixton’ are an example of Londoners hitting out and demanding change by making their voices heard. We can only hope the city’s councils listen.