With house prices rising astronomically, young people are escaping the capital for cities like Birmingham and Bristol
"Will you ever buy a house?" It's a question that any Londoner sliding into their late twenties and staring deep into the abyss of Actual Adult Life will be familiar with. But the conversation about becoming a homeowner in this city is always a short one: most of us will never own a place because it is just too damn expensive. Looking at house prices is like looking at really expensive designer clothes you'll never own – except you can probably live without a £900 coat. You actually do need a house to grow old in.
The Office For National Statistics says that Londoners are reacting to the astronomical house prices in one way: by getting the fuck out and moving to regional cities. Last year, 58,220 people aged between 30 and 39 are recorded as having left the city, although that figure is attained by analysing NHS registers, so the real number will be much higher.
It's the largest exodus recorded since 2008, the year the recession hit the UK. Birmingham, Bristol and Manchester are three of the top cities, with Birmingham attracting 5,480 Londoners in the twelve months leading up to June 2013.
But it isn't just people in their mid-thirties leaving the capital. 26-year-old Daniel Cochrane is one of the twentysomethings on his way out. The operational manager at BT currently rents a room in a shared house in Bethnal Green, but is planning to move to Watford. He says he loves London, but house prices are the reason he's leaving with his girlfriend, buying a house in Watford first and then going back to Merseyside before he turns 30.
"It was never really viable for us to buy in London," Cochrane tells us. "We found that if you go to Watford (27km northwest of central London) and out, there's very affordable housing – you can buy a flat for £140,000. We've looked at some insane house prices, that if you compare to the north leave you with your mouth open."
"I love London and maybe don't quite feel ready to leave, but I know that if I want to buy I have to move further out to do that. Also, if I do the same job up north, my workload will be so much lighter. Everyone seems to appreciate normal life there, the quality of life is definitely much higher."
London is a jobs magnet, offering far more work opportunities in the city. But the correlation between that and house prices compared to other cities in the UK is staggering – you might be able to get a job quicker here or earn slightly more, but that doesn't explain why the average price of a property in London is £402,800 more than double the national average.
One positive that could come out of the ridiculous price of living? Maybe more people will realise that life doesn't have to be led in London, boosting creative industries in other cities across the UK. But the cost of London housing just means that we're creeping towards a capital that exclusively built for rich people – a Dubai with shit weather. So is it time for us to move out?