t a friend’s dinner over the weekend sitting next to someone new, conversation ran as it inevitably does when I tell people what job I do, to whereabouts we both lived.
My new acquaintance lived in a leafy west London suburb, she told me, but she hadn’t always done so. In fact, she’d only just moved from Walworth and before that she’d spent ten years moving between grotty house shares in east London.
Initially unsure why this virtual stranger felt the need to give me such a thorough address history I realised she was suffering from millennial postcode anxiety, a reversal of the time-honoured phenomenon whereby Londoners used to upgrade themselves from Kilburn to West Hampstead, or Peckham to East Dulwich.
Nowadays you’re far more likely to find the under-forties travelling in the opposite direction. Live in Highgate? Better to say Archway. Bought in Clapham’s eastern fringe? It’s Brixton or bust my friend. West London? Give up now!
But why this insistence on slumming it? My hunch is that housing is such a fraught topic for Generation Rent that to admit to living anywhere too salubrious will arouse suspicion you’re living off Mummy and Daddy well into your thirties.
Achieving any kind of home ownership in London meanwhile will have people assuming a six-figure inheritance and will undermine your down-to-earth, leftie or artistic credentials in a stroke.
But really what a waste. Assuming individuals are slightly better off than you in the game of intergenerational inequality based on nothing more than their outcode is a mug’s game.
It won’t make housing more affordable, property taxation fairer, or landlords more accountable. And an edgy postcode will never be a substitute for a personality.