Earlier this week, E4 broadcast an interesting programme called "How to Live the Chelsea Life," about an exclusive, high-end house sharing company, which prides itself on only renting to aspirational, young, sociable people. And by interesting, I mean it made me want to pour sulphuric acid directly into my retinas.
Letting agents are not my favourite people in the world. I think of them as the leeches of the property market; providing nothing real to the economy, but making money off of properties they don't own. Capital Living is owned by Adam Goff, a man more out of touch with reality than someone with liquid LSD being permanently pumped through their veins. The idea is that they manage high quality housing to rent, in bourgeoisie London areas- but not to just anyone. 96% of applicants are rejected, as you are required to be "young, good looking and aspirational," which quickly translates into a rich white person. Adam repeats over and over again: "we want like-minded people" and eventually seems to accidentally be really honest and admit "I am a young white middle class man...they [the tenants] should look like me as well". Ooops.
(image via www.Channel4.com)
The blunders unashamedly continue, with one of the company's workers, Rich White (yes, even his name is an allusion to their ideal tenant), saying his first thoughts on a potential tenant called Farnaz (whom he was yet to meet) was that he probably wouldn't be able to speak English. Yeah, I can't ever think of a time in history when judging people on one aspect about themselves has ever gone wrong. At one point, he dismisses two ladies on the basis that they are not good looking enough. The people who actually make it through their circus of an application process are indeed posh. One girl actually said the sentence "we all do hurling and polo and then...all pile into the sloaney at the end of the night" a sentence so posh I can't even begin to construe what she meant. Another tenant re-lived his horror of once having had to live with a plumber, as though he'd been forced to shack up with a serial murderer. He then went on to denounce anyone who cut halloumi cheese width ways instead of length ways as "a heathen". Yes, God isn't judging this man's utter contempt of anyone socially below him, but is judging others by the way they slice their diary products. The golden rule is love thy middle class cheeses, isn't it?
Underneath the farcical antics of these self-parody-like characters, who have a perspective on life more offensive than the feeling of being repeatedly hit in the face by a granite wall, is a very sad truth: the London housing market is mad. House prices are rising at higher rates than the vast majority of ordinary people's wages, and Capital Living are merely profiting off of that misery. They can get away with having these bizarre stringent rules and an almost open classist and racial attitude towards letting houses, because the demand for housing is so astronomically high.
The government needs to do more to expand the housing supply and stimulate the creation of more jobs outside of the capital, because at the moment it feels like the whole job market is concentrated in London. I have seen first hand families who have lived in London for generations being forced to leave. If this government doesn't get serious about this issue, they will be overseeing a mass social cleansing like we have never seen before. I don't personally understand why it easier for this government to commit to dropping bombs to kill people in a foreign country, than it is to create more housing for its own people. Rich of Capital Living claims their aim is "to make living in London better". But the question is: better for whom?