The city of Oxford and three other Oxfordshire towns have been shortlisted on the nation’s list of the worst places to live in England. Despite recent census data showing increases in health and diversity, the 2023 rankings place Oxford 22nd in light of extortionate housing prices, energy bills and London-like living costs.
An iLiveHere poll ranks Oxford, Henley, Abingdon and Banbury in the top forty worst places to live in the country. However, this year, criteria for the decision seemed to have changed. Each year votes are cast to choose “which provincial dirt hole in England” will have the title of worst place to live. 2022’s winner, Aylesbury, claimed the title for its lack of security and high crime rate. The runner-ups – Huddersfield, Luton and Liverpool – have been characterised by their general proximity to the poverty threshold. 2023, on the other hand, places some of the most affluent places in the country on the list; celebrity cradles and extortionately priced housing. It appears, therefore, that the cost of living crisis has taken its toll in more ways than one; “dirt holes” can now be identified by their ignorance of the situation.
The City of Oxford is in the eye of the house-pricing storm. The smallest two-up-two-down terraced houses in OX2, for example, are currently selling at three-quarters of a million pounds; there are terraced houses in London selling for less. In 2022, Cherwell reported on the housing crisis’s impact on Oxford’s academics. Seemingly, it is only the arch-aristocracy who have escaped rising costs. Henley has made it to the list, according to Oxford Mail, for its relationship with the celebrity world qualifying for the title of ‘low living standards’ as a result of being out of touch with the reality of the cost of living crisis.
Oxford City Council has created a web page dedicated to advice for dealing with energy, heating, and living costs. It also has an initiative running aimed at tackling the housing crisis; Oxford Needs Homes recognises that Oxford has some of the ‘least affordable housing’ in the country with the average house price at more than twelve times the average salary. The council plans to build 10,884 new homes in Oxford by 2036 and to offer affordable housing through its new housing company, ‘OX Place’. The council has also said the housing initiative will invest in a future that is ‘greener, more efficient, and zero carbon by 2030’ though building thousands of new homes raises sustainability and climate crisis alarms.
It should also be noted that Oxford is ranked 38th on the nation’s best places to live; it might be a thriving hub of cultural and academic pursuits but that comes at a price. Though the poll is solely for satire purposes, it sheds light on the national view of the cost of living crisis. The greatest “dirt holes”, it would seem, are those whose ignorance of the current state of affairs – fiscal or ecological – makes them entirely unattractive.