Who are our world cities for?

Tony Mulhall MRICS

Associate Director Land Professional Group (RICS)

We read with increasing frequency that our major global cities are no longer affordable for a whole range of people who would normally have comfortably inhabited them.


New York, New York

New York is holding less appeal for millennials with high levels of education debt, pitching for low paid jobs while paying unaffordable residential rents.

For those young people who are employed in New York City, wages are dramatically lower at every age compared to earlier generations. Between the ages of 19 and 22, millennials are making 35 percent less than previous generations did at that age; between the ages of 26 and 29, they make 11 percent less. That means the average employed 23-year-old in New York made about $27,700 a year in 2000 (in 2014 dollars), but only $23,500 in 2014.

US census figures show that more people are leaving the New York region than any other major metropolitan area in the US. More than 1 million people moved out of the New York area to other parts of the country since 2010, a rate of 4.4 percent — the highest negative net migration rate among the US’s large population centres.

London’s Population growth

In contrast London’s population is growing strongly and is expected to continue to do so. The population of London grew at twice the rate of the UK as a whole between 2011 and 2015, and could reach almost 10 million by the middle of next decade, official figures show.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show the population of London increased by 5.7% between mid-2011 and mid-2015, compared with growth of 2.9% for the UK as a whole. Over the same period, the cost of housing in the capital has rocketed – Land Registry figures show that the average price of a property rose by 47% between June and 2011 and June 2015, from £285,906 to £419,474. Despite ambitious rhetoric, government administrations at either national or city level have failed to make a material impact on the problem. As we increasingly pursue globalised urban markets, is it inevitable that residential property prices become detached from local employment conditions, so that people on median incomes can no longer afford to live in their own city?

Who is London for?

In her recently published book ‘Big Capital: who is London for?’ author Anna Minton addresses several consequences of such increases in residential property values for a large proportion of London’s residents. While some of the explanations are not new, it is important to be reminded of the long-term consequences of successive decisions about housing by UK governments of every hue 

RICS hosts an annual joint public lecture with Oxford University and the Prince’s Foundation on an issue of public importance. This year participants will be able to hear first hand from Anna Minton on the issues raised in her book.

Anna Minton, ‘Big Capital: who is London for?’

18:00; Wednesday 31 January

RICS, Parliament Square, London SW1P 3AD. Places are limited

Please RSVP to  sud@conted.ox.ac.uk

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