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UEL architecture expert Anna Minton publishes widely discussed new book on London housing


'Big Capital: Who is London for?' examines problems with the City's housing market

A much debated new book by University of East London (UEL) academic Anna Minton examines how and why affordable housing in Britain’s capital is being replaced by luxury towers in ‘golden postcode’ locations that only ultra-high-net-worth individuals can afford. 

Big Capital: Who is London For? also looks at how people on middle incomes are being priced out of the London housing market and how poor people are often forced to pay extortionate rents for shocking conditions.

Published by Penguin on 1 June, the book has already generated discussion, reviews and features in media outlets such as The Financial Times, New Statesman, The Times, The London Evening Standard, and The Guardian.

It's many real-life examples bring its arguments to life, cutting through the complexities, jargon and spin to give a clear-sighted account of how the London property market arrived at this point, and what can be done to solve its ongoing problems. 

Below is an extract: 

It is not possible to contemplate real solutions to the housing crisis without profound structural economic change. A weak private sector in the regions and public-sector jobs shrinking rapidly as a result of cuts mean that many people still look for work in the capital.

And while some will leave the city, others will put up with otherwise unacceptable conditions in order to keep their jobs and family ties. This means that some people pay through the nose to live in an increasingly sterile city – a playground for the rich in the centre, surrounded by gentrifying hipster hinterlands, and substandard housing for cheap labour in places such as Barking, Dagenham and Edmonton.

Expecting people to move each time they are priced out of an area brings its own problems. Moving house is rarely an easy experience, even when the move is voluntary. But it’s incomparably worse when it involves being wrenched away from the support networks, daily routines and the sense of identity that comes with being able to call a place home. Even the threat of being uprooted, known as housing insecurity, is a significant contributor to mental health problems.

This is not just about building more houses, it’s about the kinds of houses that we build and who we build them for. It is also about our priorities as a society. Property is being built in London – for wealthy foreign investors instead of the people who need homes most.

As the stock of social and genuinely affordable housing dries up, rents are soaring and the taxpayer is being forced to contribute billions of pounds in housing benefits for poor-quality private lets. So far, the proposed solutions from both main political parties involves only tinkering with the existing situation. Instead, we need a new social contract that ensures housing is once again viewed as a right for all, not just an asset for the few.”

Big Capital: Who is London for? can be purchased online here

Anna Minton is a Reader in architecture and co-directs UEL’s Reading the Neoliberal City MRes programme.