How is the London housing market affecting life in Bristol?

Browse By

In the last ten years, Bristol has enjoyed an explosion of culture which has made it one of the most desirable places to live in the country. One might wonder why this has occurred. The answer lies not in Bristol but in London. According to the Office of National statistics’ latest index, average housing prices in London have reached an all-time high of over £510,000 (June 2021), almost double the national average (£266,000). Rental prices are also almost twice the national average in London compared to the rest of the country, and, after a momentary lapse in price growth due to reduced demand during the pandemic, are forecast to increase by 5% annually until 2024.

This is largely due to a dramatic increase in foreign property investors buying expensive plots in London in order to rent them out, often at extortionate prices. The cumulative effect of this is that rental prices have risen dramatically in London, and so it has become more and more difficult for its denizens to live there. Forced out of the London market, these people must look elsewhere to find a home. Many of these rental refugees still have jobs in London, which, after all, is the reason they were willing and able to put up with the high rent in the first place. Therefore, they must find somewhere to live where they can commute to London, or somewhere they can find a similar job, without the inflated rental prices of London. Bristol fits the bill. A 96-minute train journey from the capital, many make the journey to the capital every day for work. Furthermore, Londoners are attracted to work in Bristol’s primary industries of aerospace, media, defence and finance.

With the increase in traffic between London and Bristol, the government has spent £700 million on the electrification of the Bristol to London train line since 2014, which has cut the journey time by approximately 20 minutes. This improvement in infrastructure has further allowed for movement of workers between the two cities, increasing levels of worker rehousing from London to Bristol.

Without a doubt, London is one of the great cultural melting pots of the world. Because of this, those moving from London to Bristol have a demand for quality culture, such as restaurants, bars and music. This has led to an increase in new businesses in the food and entertainment industries in the city, which aim to satisfy the demand for London-quality fare in Bristol.

However, the influx of Londoners in Bristol has no doubt contributed to the inflation in the Bristol housing market in the past few years, both directly and indirectly. Not only has an injection of well-off workers looking to live in Bristol driven market prices up due to increased demand, but the improvement to Bristol’s culture that has come as a result of Londoners moving there has made Bristol an even more desirable place to live, thus increasing property prices. This can be seen by the fact that, in 2017, Bristol’s average housing price became greater than the national average for the first time since 2004.

So, all in all, are the consequences of increased London housing prices a positive thing for Bristol? While on the one hand, Bristolians may be benefitting from a wider range of products and services, one must keep in mind that the effects on the housing market may in fact reduce quality of life for some, given that they can no longer afford certain housing. In short, it appears that Bristol is becoming more similar to London. Bristolians may benefit culturally, but this may come at the cost of increased inequality within the city.