Living in London can be an emotionally draining experience. The love/hate relationship one develops with this city is an intense roller coaster that defines your day to day existence. I have lived in London basically my whole life, and I absolutely adore the place. It has given me so much. It is a gigantic, complex, lively fount of endless potential and multicultural wonder. There is everything here. Everyone. It’s fantastic.
I also hate it. It is a hard, unforgiving, late-stage capitalist hellhole that bleeds you dry, hardens your edges to a fine point, and leaves the vulnerable emaciated and forgotten by the side of the road.
So as Londoners we have a complex relationship with our city. I imagine it is the same with the denizens of other mega-cities around the world. We love it, but we love to moan about it perhaps even more. Of course, we are the only ones allowed to have a go at it. Woe betide if someone from outside criticises it. Your city is like your family: You can take the piss out of it all you want. Outsiders, though? They need to watch their mouth.
One unambiguously terrible thing about London is its housing situation. Britain as a whole is going through an appalling, manufactured housing crisis—with not enough housing, and specifically public housing, being built—but the problem is exacerbated all the more in London by its status as an international centre of deregulated capital. Financial journalist Nicholas Shaxson wrote a great book a few years ago called Treasure Islands. It details the worldwide net of tax havens and the shadow banking sector that supports it and the trillions of tax dollars that this deprives the world’s governments. The tax haven/shadow banking axis is one of the most diabolical entities in the world, moving invisible levers that dictate how the world operates and setting hard limits on the social progress that can be made. In the book Shaxson goes into detail about London’s ‘out in the open’ status as a highly desirable tax haven which, thanks to its lax regulation on capital, floods the city with dark money.
Another factor behind London’s attractiveness to international capital is its incredibly expensive housing market. Big business and oligarch money pours into the city from around the world. It is used to buy up properties that are never intended to be used as actual homes, instead utilising houses and flats as rock solid investments, or indeed safe houses for money that might otherwise be threatened by capricious government policies at the point of origin. Journalist Anna Minton’s book ‘Big Capital: Who Is London For?’ is an explosive account of the way London’s housing market is being rapidly divorced from the human need that is supposed to underpin housing. Houses sit empty as investments for people who may never see them; a disproportionate amount of new housing being built is, thanks to corporate capture and council corruption, not only not public housing, but geared towards the upper ends of the private market; costs spiral out of control and out of reach of the people who actually live here who then have to move further out, creating a highly wealth-stratified society which has a holistically deleterious effect as well as inflating a dangerous bubble.
All that is to say: Living in London can be a real ball ache unless you’re wealthy. Living here means renting here. And renting here sucks. Sky-high prices, poor renter protections, landlord-friendly legislation. It’s not fun. It creates an environment of free-floating, desperate people. So I get it: When you’re looking for a housemate, you want to make sure everyone knows what they’re getting into, and that everything’s on the up and up.
I get it.
Nevertheless, a post on the London subreddit the other day about a prospective housemate’s list of demands for any new tenants really knocked me for six. Grab some popcorn and tuck in, because this is wild:
Header Image Source: Reddit