It’s hardly news that certain cities are extremely desirable places to live, with correspondingly high property prices. But property prices in London have now passed well beyond ridiculous – and what’s worse, so has the concept of what is an acceptable dwelling. You’ve probably heard of ‘beds in sheds’ (illegal housing in converted sheds and outbuildings), but it’s not just impoverished immigrants that are living in these cramped conditions. In fact, you can now buy what is laughably called a flat or studio in Central London, which is little more than a bed with a tiny kitchen area and shower room. And they’re selling fast.
Bedsits are nothing new. What is new is that instead of a large room, these ‘studios’ are so cramped that the bed is barely inches from the kitchen (actually just a tiny sink, two hotplates and a microwave). If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to squeeze in a miniscule table, but will more likely be sitting with a tray on your lap to eat (though everyone in London eats out all the time, right?). Yes, people are now prepared to spend upwards of GB£250k on glorified cupboards if it means they get that crucial W1 or SW1 postcode.
Admittedly, these flats are far removed from squalid Victorian cholera-ridden slums. People living within spitting distance of Hyde Park and the Thames don’t exactly have to worry about typhoid or rickets. But since the UK is supposed to be a civilised 1st world country, why is renting or buying these tiny pads viewed as necessary or desirable? You can argue that living in Central London gives you easy access to jobs and facilities, or that it’s better to spend the money on a small, central address rather than on a lengthy commute to a larger flat. But when did it become acceptable to live like this – and pay £1,000 a month for the privilege?
Perspective is an odd thing. Owning a property in central London may suggest that you’ve made it. Even renting may seem like an achievement. But what kind of life is it, working to pay such hefty bills for so little space? Sure, you have easy access to London’s culture and nightlife. I find it sad, though, that people feel obliged to live like this, and disturbing that such tiny homes are legally permitted. Welcome to 21st century London … don’t try to swing the cat …