Just when we thought the dizzying excess of London's luxury property market had reached its zenith, make way for Aykon Nine Elms - or, more accurately, the Versace Block. Middle Eastern developer Damac Properties and Versace will team up to renovate a 50-storey skyscraper on London's South Bank. The new development is a spectacular example of everything that's wrong with London's property market and a massive up yours to the millions of Londoners languishing in poor housing.
The flats will boast an exclusive array of Versace branded fixtures and fittings. Spare a thought for the global jet-setters of yesterday, muddling along in luxury apartments only able to dream of a Barocco egg-slicer or Medusa-Lumiere toilet brush.
Why does the Versace Block matter? After all, gratuitous displays of wealth are to be expected from those with more money than sense. But the Versace Block moves from the ludicrous to the disturbing when you recognise that the relationship between extravagant housing and miserable housing is a symbiotic one; extravagance is enabled because not very far away people are being robbed of their right to a home.
What should anger us about this development is the complicity of our political leaders; it is they who have given over vast swathes of our city to the whims of wealthy elites in their endless pursuit of luxury and status.
Boris Johnson recently bragged about London; “[It] is to the billionaire as the jungles of Sumatra are to the orangutans. It is their natural habitat.”
Our country is being led by those who have lost all sense of how a city's space and resources should be used to meet the needs of its people. As political parties decry the housing shortage, luxury developments that offer little or no genuinely affordable housing are gleefully rubber stamped by Boris Johnson and local councils.
Developments of this kind, where people are kicked out to make way for swanky privately owned housing, are too numerous to mention in London - though the Sweetsway Estate in Barnet and the Fred Wigg and John Walsh Towers in Waltham Forest offer two examples.
People trying to hold it together in a city plundered by the worst excesses of the market are under constant strain just to hold onto a home, a place in a local school, a bit of grass you can sit on without having to pay up.
The experience of being under constant attack in your own home is radicalising. Communities are becoming much savvier at recognising and responding to the destructive forces of gentrification when it lands on their doorstep.
The Versace Block might seem gobsmacking, but it’s only a particularly obnoxious example of what’s tearing apart communities right across London. And it will continue unabashed, until local people build the grass roots power to resist it.Reuse content