The Great Inversion

Last month, we posted a map showing how house prices have changed in London the last three years, with Lewisham among an inner core of London boroughs which rose while outer boroughs stagnated. It's one expression of a phenomenon that US demographer Alan Ehrenhalt calls 'The Great Inversion'.

“The late 20th century,” he writes, “was the age of poor inner cities and wealthy suburbs; the 21st century is emerging as an age of affluent inner neighborhoods and immigrants settling on the outside.”

The Economist used the book's title to describe what's happening to London, as illustrated by this map from Savills, which shows the socio-economic changes that have taken place in London between the 2001 and 2011 censuses. Areas in red have moved "upmarket", areas in blue have done the reverse. There are actually two great inversions going on here. Firstly, inner London is rapidly catching up with the outer suburbs in terms of wealth and status. Secondly, London is flipping on its axis, as job creation (see map below) in places like Shoreditch, London Bridge and Canary Wharf fuels the ascendancy of East London:
The Economist explains:

The places that have gone downmarket are in Metroland—the 1920s and 1930s railway suburbs stretching west of Acton and Willesden or around Ilford. These are the middle-class suburbs where commuters move when they have children. But of late, house prices in those parts of suburban London have stagnated, even as inner-London ones have soared ahead. In recent years, the outflow of people to the Home Counties has not been matched by the inflow from inner-London, and so population increases have been sustained by immigration and births...

It attributes this change to three big shifts:

1. Jobs are becoming more focused in central London "at the expense of out-of-town office parks, which look increasingly dilapidated." [Lewisham's lack of job creation is not a unique phenomenon].

2. People are marrying and having kids later, meaning that city-centre lifestyles suit them better for longer. "Today’s 20-somethings are more likely to be university educated and less likely to drive, which makes offices that can be reached quickly by bike, bus or train far more desirable."

3. Structural changes, including falling crime, less pollution and better schools are encouraging families to stay put too, while "gentrification proves self-reinforcing, as new restaurants, bars and other businesses open to serve—and employ—gentrifiers."

So while Lewisham once braced itself for an influx of urban poor, priced out of central London, it seems likely that those people will move further out and our borough might face a very different kind of housing policy choice. The Economist concludes:

In some places, borough councils may be tempted to leverage high property prices to generate cash to redevelop their more run-down parts—turning over their social housing stock to private developers. 
That however smacks just a little of social cleansing. At the moment, complaints about gentrification in London tends to be limited to carping about the silliness of hipster bars, or the cost of a burger in Brixton village*. But... the politics of gentrification in London could eventually become quite tetchy.

*See all arguments about gentrification on Brockley Central ever.

24 comments:

Soropopopoopopo Now do a poo said...

Lewisham IS central London. it is an inner London borough.

Brockley Nick said...

It is an inner London borough. It is not central London. There are lots of different ways of defining 'central London', none of them include Lewisham. Some of them barely deign to touch south London at all.

heckmcbuff said...

Sure your investments will become nice little earners before too long so not to worry, you can take your money and then F off !!

Brockley Nick said...

If the analysis is correct, then the point is, this isn't about short-term opportunistic investments (though of course, there is also plenty of that), this is about a fundamental change in the way London works, that will last perhaps centuries.

Ben said...

Brockley needs more homes built and less NIMBYs getting in the way of developments.

Headhunter said...

Where are you suggesting we build all these new homes?

Max Calò said...

Ben has kindly offered his backyard.

Ben said...

It's 10 ft by 10 ft will give you a medal if you can build anything on it, you'll have to get past the cat though.

Max Calò said...

You'll be surprised what can be described ad a bijou development.

Ben said...

Large gardens that back onto roads, wasteland, Telegraph hill is full of huge houses that can be converted into large flats, perfectly fit for families. London needs more houses, even more in the future, cant stop people moving bere. The prices are just ridiculous. Brockley shouldn't just be a place for the wealthy and those who got great deals 10 years ago.

The government is keen on relaxing residential planning laws, this is a good thing for first time buyers and young families.

Headhunter said...

Where are all these large gardens that back onto roads? Where is all this "wasteland"? As for the large houses in Telegraph Hill and for that matter the Brockley conservation area, they are already mostly converted into flats, very few remain as single dwellings. I agree that 1st time buyers and young families but unless the government steps in with some kind of legalised zoning which allocates specific areas to young less well off families etc, how can you stop prices rising in a free market? Why should Brockley prices somehow be held back whereas those in Islington, Fulham or Chelsea are somehow allowed to run away?

Anon said...

Typical, happy to propose that other people lose what he hasn't got anyway. We should have another saying.... Perhaps ISBY? I Someone else's Back Yard....

Ben said...

Prices are high because there is very little new supply. Building more will help.

I commute around London a lot and have seen a fair few new houses built on gardens backing onto roads. There is space for more building. Lots of development by the tracks in Brockley, there is more land that can be freed up, also some large commercial lots.


Of course there is lots more to do, get rid of inheritance tax loopholes, make second homes less financially attractive etc etc.

"Why should Brockley prices somehow be held back whereas those in Islington, Fulham or Chelsea are somehow allowed to run away?"



A) Brockley prices will never get to a comparable level with these places B) Sounds like you want them to?

Ben said...

Not so sure anyone was ever forced to sell their garden….

Tiri said...

Tin pot demographics

Brockley Nick said...

What the national census by the Office of National Statistics?

Tiri said...

No, the interpretation.

Brockley Nick said...

Whose interpretation? Alan ehrenhalt's, savills', the economist's or mine? And why?

Dusty Chalk said...

London 40 year career teacher here - Lewisham - paid up member of ILEA.
ILEA = Inner London Education Authority.
Only if you remember of course.

Headhunter said...

There really isn't much space in Brockley and I for one am very much against building all over green spaces and gardens. You may want to live in a wall to wall concrete city but I don't. As for other parts of SE London, you're right, there are some brownfield, ex commercial sites that could be developed but there are plans for most that I'm aware of. As for my comment re Chelsea and Fulham of course I know that prices in Brockley will never be the same as in those areas, my question was why should Brockley have its prices frozen to allow the seemingly underprivileged move in? The big houses in the conservation area for example were built in the late 18th century for exactly the people you seem to want to exclude - the wealthy. Why should Brockley prices now be held back somehow?

Shock 'n Whoare said...

Brockleys full.
Try somewhere else.

Brockley Nick said...

There's nothing special about Fulham. It was a bit of a dump 40 years ago. Areas' fortunes ebb and flow. Who knows what will happen over the next four decades...

Headhunter said...

TBH Fulham is irrelevant to what I am trying to say, I just picked it out of the air as an example of a place with flourishing house prices. I was simply trying to find out why Ben thinks that prices in Brockley should be held down...

Anon2 said...

Having spent 20 years saving up to buy a house and sacrificing many other things to achieve it, and now I finally own a family home in Brockley (where I intend to stay and send my children to school) - why on earth would I then suggest that the best solution is to devalue the effort of the last 20 years by turning Brockley into a flat ridden ghetto....

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