It’s an opportunity. And a challenge.
Cambridge is an expensive place to live.
But we sometimes forget what a challenge this can be if you’re moving here from elsewhere.
I was recently invited to go to Leicester. I’ve been there before, to the National Space Centre (if you haven’t been, do, it’s good), but this time it was to go to the Medical Research Council’s Toxicology Unit. Not because of anything sinister, I’m very clean living nowadays, but because in a few years it’s closing in Leicester and moving to Tennis Court Road, right in the middle of Cambridge. It’s an obvious thing for them to do, Cambridge is full of scientists and so recruiting is easier, it’s full of similar organisations so the sharing of knowledge is easier and it’s known across the world so the kudos of a Cambridge location is valuable.
The only awkward thing is the 100 or so people who currently work there.
The purpose of my visit was to help those staff understand the Cambridge property market and how that will influence their relocation.
The first person to sit down at my desk lived in a 5 bed 1930s semi in a nice Leicester suburb 3 miles from work and 2 miles from the centre of Leicester. They currently drive to work in about 10 minutes. They asked what a similar property in Cambridge would cost. I showed them a 3 bed 1930s semi off Coleridge Road, a lot smaller than theirs but a similarly nice area a similar distance to work and town. We sold that house for a bit over £625,000.
The value of their bigger version in Leicester? About £225,000.
A lot of the people relocating are likely to be highly qualified and well paid, but there will also be those on good but normal wages – lab technicians, administrators that sort of thing and bridging a £400,000 gap just isn’t an option. Because of this employers are having to be very generous to tempt people to move here. Many will pay all of the moving costs, buy in employee’s current houses to make it easier for them, even give six-figure interest-free loans to soften the blow. It’s a huge expense for the employer, but they clearly think it’s worth it to come to our fine city.
So that helps a bit. It helps soften the financial blow at least and although lots of staff will see the upheaval of of the move as a chore others will see it as an exciting opportunity. More than one young couple I saw on the day were thrilled about the idea.
The only thing none of them could get their head round is that nowhere is 10 minutes drive from Tennis Court Road. Firstly because there are no parking spaces at their new location, so you can’t drive even if you wanted to, secondly because no matter where you start from in Cambridge it takes a lot longer than 10 minutes to get anywhere during rush hour. The solution is, of course, a bicycle, everyone in Cambridge knows that, but what we forget is that most adults elsewhere in the country haven’t ridden a bicycle since they were a child and they look at you funny when you suggest it. Like your winding them up.
They’ll soon understand.