I’m an American graduate student in London and the housing market here is laughable. Everything is overpriced and mouldy.
What strikes me most about the London property debate is that:
a) There are no natural barriers preventing either growth on the green belt or vertical growth, which could leverage the fantastic transit system already in place.
b) The English are a minority in terms of home ownership compared to foreign buyers.
c) On the cultural preservation debate, there are a number of absolutely dumpy high streets that for some reason have not been razed. Are the Wembley high-rise apartments devoid of culture? Maybe. But the British empire won’t be brought back by preserving the bookie-tanning salon-pound store triumvirates that occupy the city’s more dilapidated neighbourhoods. The current situation strikes me purely as a policy self-own.
Compare this to San Francisco. It’s a mountainous silty peninsula where there’s no more land to build on, and vertical growth is capped due to lack of solid bedrock. The “not in my backyard” boomers who torpedo development are a problem, but the physical barriers to housing growth are much higher in SF, Seattle and NYC (a literal island) than in London.
The way out isn’t rent control, financing reform, or other artificial measures. It’s just fixing the supply-demand curve. Disincentivise absentee landlords (mine lives in Qatar and another flat we looked at was owned by a person in Dubai) and build more supply.
Lovely city though.