Monday, November 19, 2012

London Has Toilets... And Rapidly Rising Property Values


Today is World Toilet Day. Did you know there was such a thing? I didn't. Did you know more people around the world have cell phones than have toilets? I didn't either. And I've lived in places all around where the world where toilets were nonexistent. I spent 7 months in a "village" in Afghanistan's Hindu Kush where no one had ever heard of a toilet-- or toilet paper. Pretty soon I'm off to Kerala and... I have my fingers crossed.
Only 63 percent of the world's population has access to improved sanitation. Not having a toilet translates into disease and illness which are responsible for days of school and work lost, embarrassment and shame, and personal safety challenges for women and girls. It also means a lack of dignity for anyone who has to relieve themselves without privacy.

More than 2.5 billion people lack a toilet and daily more than 660 million people in India practice open defecation... It's dangerous, pollutes water sources, spreads disease, and causes thousands of deaths each day. It's not a cultural issue, it's an infrastructure one.
It's not a picture most Americans see on their TV screens... despite the efforts of some like Matt Damon (see the video interview with him below). Instead, when most Americans think about how people live abroad, they're more tuned in to-- and more about the relate to-- our cousins in Britain. The video clip above is from an HGTV show Blue America wound up advertising one of our candidates on-- we don't pick the shows, just the demographics we want to reach... this one was for voting age women in California. Anyway, a story yesterday in London's Sunday Times' Society Section highlights the trend of wealthy foreigners-- mostly from former British colonies with toilet deficits-- buying up prime U.K. real estate.
Wealthy foreigners are creating pockets of “super-prime” property in Britain as demand from abroad makes luxury homes here the most expensive in the world, according to property experts.

While wealthy Arabs buy trophy homes in London’s Knightsbridge, enclaves of Russian “oligarch” mansions are developing around the home counties, and the Chinese are investing in skyscraper developments in university towns.

The most expensive homes in London now sell for up to £6,000 a sq ft, according to a report by CBRE, a property advisory firm, against £5,500 in Hong Kong, £5,300 in New York and £2,000 in Tokyo.
The Times is kvetching that all these rich Russians, Chinese, South Africans, etc are spreading out to Essex, he home counties and even Scotland. But the Financial Times has warned that the foreigners' prediliction for property in London is causing a huge gap in home prices between London and the rest of the country that "has become so wide that it poses serious structural obstacles to any national recovery in the housing market. The flow of overseas money coming into the London property market has long kept house values in the capital above those elsewhere. However, the gap has become so enormous that the bulk of regional property owners can no longer afford to bridge it."
A steady flow of buyers have come into London from across Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Most are attracted to London for its perceived safe haven qualities.

Foreign purchasers ploughed £5.2bn into London property last year, £1.5bn more than in 2010, according to the Institute for Public Policy Research think-tank. The range of nationalities buying London property has also broadened during the financial crisis, more than doubling from 28 in 2008 to 64 in 2011.

“London property continues to boom almost entirely due to foreign buyers perceiving the whole experience of living in London to be advantageous in so many ways from education through to its proximity to other parts of Europe,” said Charles McDowell, an estate agent specialising in central London.
And toilets. The mansions and flats foreigners are buying in London have running water and toilets. They ought to keep a factoid in the back of their minds that I read in Tom Holland's book Millenium. Back in the late 900's, the English planned and carried out a systematic pogrom of Danish immigrants, even going so far as to burning down churches where whole families had sought refuge. The Englishmen didn't like the Danes' hairstyles, their propensity to bathe every week, their use of eyeliner and, worst of all, their legendary success with the ladies.



At 1:22 PM, Anonymous draftmama said...

For work in the third world, see which was started by my pal Janet's son Paddy Dadson. Making a huge difference in the villagers' lives.


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