I couldn’t help but wonder... could a TV series make the suburbs desirable?
- Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Images
Friends, Seinfeld and Sex and the City all helped lure professional 20-somethings to city centres. Could a new show do the same thing in the other direction?
During the 1990s, two TV series hit our screens, whose contribution to London’s housing crisis hasn’t – yet – been quantified, but which I’m willing to bet is not negligible.
First Seinfeld, from 1989, and then Friends, from 1994, showed a generation that living in city centres was not the preserve of intimidating artists, junkies and – in carefully demarcated pockets – the very rich, but could also offer a sheen of cool to ‘normal’, middle class people too (aka the very squares watching them on tv).
New York was not just a location for these shows, but played a crucial role in signalling a certain type of adventurous but accessible living that was emulated by young people in their droves in the years to come.
Meanwhile city centres became ever safer, cleaner and more appealing and those young people elected to stay put, buy homes and have families, thrilled by the proximity to trendy restaurants, short commutes and improving schools.
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By the time Sex and the City first aired in 1998, the allure of inner city living was an accepted fact, backed up by soaring house prices in capitals the world over, with London to the fore.
Fast forward 20 years and the equivalent young people are struggling to make rent and laughing at the idea of ever affording to buy in London (or indeed, New York, or Paris).
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Instead, they are forsaking areas within striking distance of the office to buy where they can afford, outside London, where homes are on average £93,000 cheaper.
Research from Countrywide estate agent found that 63 per cent of London tenants taking their first step on the property ladder are moving outside the capital as the gap between the places where people can afford to rent and where they can afford to buy has widened each year since the crash in 2008.
What we need is a Seinfeld for today, showing fun young people enjoying life in the burbs – driving to each other’s houses, getting competitive over the gardening and enjoying a joke at Harpenden train station: “Leaves on the line again! Could Thameslink BE any worse?” etc.
The least it could do would be to make us all feel a bit happier about having to leave our beloved city centres. And it would give us something to watch on all those delayed train journeys.