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Quality of Life Finds a Sweet Spot

The wealth of the world flocks to London. But some of the smarter money continues on to Southampton.

That’s because the port city on the south coast of England, just 75 miles southwest of the Capital City, banks off a rich history in the maritime economy, its revered local universities, more-affordable housing and, in general, what might be considered a higher quality of life. A 2014 study of “good growth” factors by Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) and Demos, a cross-party think tank, assessed several factors that make for optimal local economic performance. Going beyond the simple Gross Value Added (GVA) measure it looks more holistically at such things as jobs, income, skills, health, housing (affordability) and work-life balance.

With the tourist trade unabated, merchant cargo ships docking in and out of the port on a near-hourly basis, and local universities fostering spin-out companies, it’s little wonder why land is being bought and developed. What might be surprising is why some properties have been undervalued until now.

Southampton ranked in the PwC-Demos study far above average among English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland cities, placing just above Oxford and Cambridge and a bit behind Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Reading & Bracknell. London and its boroughs ranked near the bottom due to high housing and transportation costs and inconveniences.

In terms of cost of living, Southampton offers interesting numbers. Mortgages as a percentage of income average around 43.8 per cent. In Oxford, that number is 62.15 per cent, in Edinburgh it is 42.04 per cent and in London it is 127.27 per cent.

By and large, cities that honour environmental needs more typically put resources into other quality-of-life matters such as parks, forests, waterways and clean air. So the environmentalists might take some credit for making that a reality in Southampton. The levels of carbon dioxide created by the city and its inhabitants are projected to drop by 34 per cent over the next ten years, according to the Southampton Low Carbon Group, a coalition assembled to include the Hampshire Chamber of Commerce, University of Southampton, Cofely District Energy and Business Southampton. But just as important and tangible in real time, the Group endeavours to enhance flora and fauna diversity in the city itself, building green and blue infrastructure (forested areas and waterways) that happen to also encourage healthier lifestyles.