It is commonplace to contrast the social mix of London with the segregation of Paris. This analysis characterises (caricatures?) Paris as a doughnut city: the centre is homogenously bourgeois, while the immigrants and the poor are relegated to the concrete banlieues on the other side of the Peripherique.
London by contrast is held to be a city which switches from elegant townhouse to high-rise council housing in a matter of yards, as a result of the combined efforts of the Luftwaffe and post-war planning. There are richer and poorer areas, but few districts are devoid of either social housing or a middle class enclave.
But perhaps that\’s all starting to change. Central St Giles is a garish Renzo Piano development on one of London\’s most historically ominous sites. The super dense development may tip its hat to the crowded tenements that once dominated, but there the resemblance ends. While 53 flats have been allocated to Circle Anglia for social rental and intermediate buy-rent, the others are apparently being marketed in the Far East, with prices starting at £500,000 for a studio, and £1 million for a two-bed flat.
What\’s missing is the middle – the flats that might be within the financial grasp of people on an average, or even above-average but not astronomical, salary. Central London\’s property market appears to have reached a condition where only the super-rich and key workers (the 21st Century\’s \’deserving poor\’?) can afford to get their foot on the ladder. This is a \’mixed community\’, true, but a very odd one: just how will this blend of jetsetters, jobseekers and low-paid workers actually rub along?
Perhaps the developers (Legal and General, and Mitsubishi) are agitators, working under deep cover to foment revolution, by laying bare the inequities in society. Or perhaps it\’s just another of the bizarre outcomes of London\’s soaring land values, persistent high-end demand, and reliance on developers to provide public goods.