London can be a relentless and unforgiving beast.
For centuries it has swallowed up newcomers from far and wide, replacing inhabitants who choose to flee for a quieter life beyond the city walls (or, these days, the M25).
In recent times the capital's churn has gone something like this: within the UK, far more 20-somethings move to London than move out of London. Yet in every other age group, the opposite is true. Thus, overall, the capital has negative net migration when it comes to people moving within the UK.
However, the annual influx of young adults from across the country is augmented by net immigration from abroad, with a large amount of foreign talent flocking to the city.
For these reasons, London's population has surged to nearly 9m in recent years, coinciding with an exceptionally strong period of economic growth that often contrasts with other parts of the UK.
City A.M. has previously warned against complacency, arguing that policymakers cannot take London's leading global position for granted. Today, an illuminating report from accountants Grant Thornton reveals a lingering threat to the city's prosperity.
A survey of 2,000 Londoners found that 6.2 per cent are planning to leave in the next year (that would be 545,000 people), a higher rate than normal according to official figures. Furthermore, a separate poll of 1,300 teenagers and university students found that a narrow majority do not want to live or work in London.
Several reasons are cited but one, predictably, sticks out. The study divides Londoners into categories – "leavers", "loyalists", "future commuters" et cetera. Asked what they dislike most about life in the capital, every group selected housing affordability and housing availability as their top two complaints. Nearly half of those planning to leave cite the housing crisis as a leading factor behind their decision, while young people who do not want to live in London also listed it in their top three reasons.
Gloomy surveys aside, London's status in the world – and particularly as a financial centre – remains intact. Nonetheless, we would be foolish to ignore the potentially fading attractiveness of the capital to ambitious young Brits, especially when coupled with lower international migration to the UK. New talent is the lifeblood of this city, and that talent needs more affordable homes in which to live.