As an exiled Copenhagen’er now living in London, I can’t help but notice the overwhelming gap between the rich and the poor. It is unbelievable and I can feel it getting under my skin.
The Central London-area I live in has just been named ‘the next possible star of the London housing market’ by the Financial Times, but there are still good possibilities of making a property bargain as prices of a studio, known in Denmark as a 1-bedroom, is still just £1 million corresponding to a staggering 10 million Danish Kroner.
I am for various reasons extremely lucky and privileged to live in a building with 24-hour concierges and a city view; a building where most, if not all, residents belong to society’s upper and upper “middle” classes. Recently there was a Christmas Party where I got to meet some of our neighbours. For a Dane with a working class background, I found it completely surreal to chitchat about which up-and-coming ski locations “I just haaaaad to try” […add here the famous high pitch of Downton Abbeys Violet Crawley] and about which London horse stables “come highly recommended”.
However, it is a building where a great deal of the flats are empty because owners “well, only really use them for concerts in the city” and where the flat on the 18th floor is for sale at an astronomical £10 million! It equals more than 100 million Danish kroner.
The working poor of London
Something about all this just doesn’t feel right to me. Especially when you consider that the number of ‘working poor’ in London in the past ten years has risen by 70 per cent and that more than 1.2 million Londoners are living in poverty in spite of working full-time jobs. All valid results by the recent London Poverty Profile analysis.
As a Dane, I feel overwhelmed– and I really find myself having a hard time getting to grips with these tendencies. I can’t understand how British society has allowed this flood of wealthy foreigners to take over London, when many of them never contribute to the local communities.
Last year more than 63 per cent of the population of the London boroughs Kensington and Chelsea were foreigners. At the same time these posh areas experienced a 40 per cent annual increase in empty properties with parts of the city now known as ‘Lights Out London’. This is due to people speculating in properties for investment purposes only. Properties they never intend to use neither for themselves nor others.
Will Copenhagen be next?
I know that it is highly unlikely that it will ever come to this level in Copenhagen, I just can’t help but wonder if Copenhagen is next in line as a playground only for the wealthy. It seems that it has already begun.
Copenhagen is now ranking 15 on the list of biggest market in the world for commercial property investments according to the international property counsellor CBRE. Just as a price increase of the private Copenhagen housing market is again alienating more and more of the middle class from the city.
Yes, all of this is complex, but the only thing I know is that it doesn’t feel right to me. Perhaps I sound naïve, but I truly hope that this isn’t the future for neither London nor Copenhagen…