London leavers: Astronomical rents drove me out of living in the capital

webnexttech | London leavers: Astronomical rents drove me out of living in the capital

London’s astronomical rents drove Alice Harvey out of the capital. And moving to the Midlands brought her a totally new life, complete with her own business, a new partner, and a permanent home. Brought up in Devon, Alice moved to the capital at 18 to study. She stayed on after graduating, living in a series of “fairly grimy” shared homes with friends, before moving in with a boyfriend. Their “absolutely minuscule” one-bedroom flat in Ealing cost around £1,500 a month. There were a lot of things Alice loved about London — the theatre and art galleries in particular — but she was working long hours in marketing and communications, hated the commute, and had no hope of buying a home of her own. When she and her boyfriend split up, Alice reassessed. “I felt it was time to pull the plug on London,” she said. “I really didn’t want to go back into shared accommodation.” She began to consider alternatives where there was plenty of job opportunity and life was more affordable and Birmingham seemed the obvious choice. In 2019 Alice rented a city centre one bedroom flat for £700 a month. “And that was including bills,” she said. “It was about double the size of my flat in London. I couldn’t believe it.” Alice turned 30 the year she moved and, short on local friends, she joined a dating website. Her first date with her boyfriend, Jeff Grant, 34, a forestry project manager, was on her birthday. “I was going down to London to celebrate with my friends, but I didn’t want to sit at home on my actual 30th,” she said. The convenience date turned into a relationship and when the first lockdown was announced Jeff suggested Alice come and stay at his three-bedroom house in a village just outside Coventry. “It was a bit weird when I moved in because we hadn’t been seeing each other for very long, but we thought it would be for about six weeks,” said Alice. “That was four years ago.” Alice now contributes to the mortgage, paying £350 a month in rent, and they live together with their Greek rescue cat, Sandy. This cut in her expenses allowed her to rethink her new job working in marketing for a firm in Birmingham. Three years ago she set up a social enterprise, SIC, a now multi award winning social enterprise that works to close the disability employment gap. This is a subject dear to Alice’s heart since she has suffered from chronic respiratory conditions since birth. “I had always wanted to set something up for myself, and when my living costs decreased, again, it was the perfect opportunity,” she said. “It is something I would never have been able to do in London.”

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