Makerversity studios at Somerset House, London (2015) (image via Flickr user Neil Cummings)

Here’s a rare bit of good real estate news for artists being priced out of the UK capital: London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced plans yesterday to set up a trust to finance and secure affordable artists’ studios across the city. Called the Creative Land Trust, it will use both public and private funds to offer loans for studio providers interested in buying its buildings. The trust will also ensure that creative workspaces are permanently protected, instead of being bulldozed to make space for luxury apartments.

The announcement follows years of skyrocketing London rents. Between 2014 and 2019, 3,500 artists are predicted to lose their workspaces in London — a 30% cut, according to a report by the Greater London Authority. In attempt to curb this trend, Khan will collaborate with a group of entrepreneurs and philanthropists called Studiomakers, which launched in March and is led by Outset Contemporary Art Fund. The organization works with private landowners, property developers, and local authorities to create new studios and protect existing ones from gentrification.

“Culture is in the DNA of the capital but we cannot be complacent,” Khan said. “As property prices rise and new areas of the city grow, artists are finding themselves unable to put down roots here. I am committed to improving access to dedicated, affordable workspace so that the next generation of creatives are given the extra support they require to flourish.”

Khan’s announcement coincides with the recent launch of Somerset House Studios, a former office building in central London that’s been converted into a hub of creative workspaces for around 100 artists. Located in the former Inland Revenue offices behind the Strand, it will house 36,000 square feet of more than 35 studios and rehearsal and project spaces.

The announcement also comes on the heels of housing giant Berkeley Homes’ controversial plans to wipe out one of London’s largest remaining studio colonies and replace it with more than 1, 400 mostly luxury apartments. Khan’s plan to make studios affordable would protect the city’s economy as well as its cultural life: the creative industries sector provides one in eight jobs in London. 

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Carey Dunne

Carey Dunne is a Brooklyn-based writer covering arts and culture. Her work has appeared in The Guardian, The Baffler, The Village Voice, and elsewhere.