Want to buy the average London home? Save more than the average salary every month

Don't waste money on food, you idiot! Image: Getty.

Good morning, Londoners! Isn’t it a lovely day? The sun is out, the air is crisp, Donald Trump hasn’t tweeted for hours and there are the first, tiny hints of spring in the air.

Yeah, well, don’t get too excited, because you’re still utterly fucked.

I mean, obviously that’s always true these days (Trump may not have tweeted yet, but he will; oh, he will). But on this occasion, the specific thing by which you are fucked is our old nemesis, the London housing market.

Let’s turn to the National Housing Federation’s Home Truths report to find out why:

House prices have become so expensive in the capital that buyers hoping to save for a typical deposit over the next four years will need to scrape together at least a staggering £2,300 every month, a new report from the National Housing Federation reveals today.

It might take you a couple of goes to take that one in, so let’s hear it again:

House prices have become so expensive in the capital that buyers hoping to save for a typical deposit over the next four years will need to scrape together at least a staggering £2,300 every month, a new report from the National Housing Federation reveals today.

Still not getting it? Let’s try focusing in on the important bit:

£2,300 every month

Oh. That’s... well, that’s quite a lot really, isn’t it?

Put it this way. The median London salary – the amount earned by the Londoner in the middle of the income distribution – was, as of April 2016, £671 per week, which is just shy of £35,000 a year. Earn that, and you receive a take home pay packet of around £2,241 a month.

So if you, as an average Londoner, save every penny you make – live on a friend’s sofa, walk to work, steal your food, never go out – you will still, at the end of the year, be around £720 short of your savings target. (This is assuming that you don’t have any student debt which, of course, you do.)

Or to put it another way: to save the money requried to buy the average London home, you need to earn more than the average London salary and not spend any of it.

Lazy millennials, blowing all their money on iPods and flat whites instead of pulling themselves up by their bootstraps like what we did. Why can’t they just work harder and stop whining?

The face of the enemy.

And get a bloody pension! Don’t want to be a burden on society do you?

Now, there are all sorts of ways in which we can fisk this one. The NHF represents housing associations: it thus has an interest in talking up the housing crisis, in an attempt to get its members more powers and freedom to address it.

The 2021 deadline is pretty arbitrary. So is the idea that first time buyers would buy as singletons rather than couples. Perhaps the biggest hole of all is the idea that they would buy “the average London home”, now worth (gulp) £563,041, rather than – as is more likely – a shoebox in a shitty area because goddamn it it’s a foot on the ladder isn’t it.

So, no. To become a first-time buyer in London, you do not literally need to be saving £2,300 a month. And to become a first-time buyer you don’t need to do it in London.

Nonetheless the fact that you can get to such a figure, even through some reductio ad absurdum fag packet maths, highlights quite how ludicrous the London housing market has become. It should not be possible, through any conventional mathematics, to come to the conclusion that you need to save more than the average income every month to have a hope of housing security in this or any other city.

Here are some other figures from the Home Truths Report which inspire much the same sort of rage:

  • To buy that average home, under current mortgage rules, you’d need a 20 per cent deposit of around £113,000;
  • Not to mention a household income of £130,000 a year;
  • The cheapest borough in the capital is Barking & Dagenham, where the mean house price is £254,183. That’s 10.1 times the average salary in the borough, or “a whole salary more than any bank is likely to lend to a couple as a mortgage”;
  • The most expensive is Kensington & Chelsea, where the average house price is now less than £40,000 off £2m. Not that it matters, really, but that’s 34.8 times the average salary in the area;
  • The rental value of the average property is now £1,727, which is 61 per cent of the average salary. Which is probably one of the reasons why...
  • Over a third of those claiming housing benefit in London are in work – because their income isn’t high enough to cover their rent.

So, to sum up, we’re all doomed.


Never mind, President Trump will be up and about soon, at which point the complete absence of long-time financial security for Londoners won’t seem like such a big problem in the scheme of things.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and also has a Facebook page now for some reason.

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Where did London’s parakeets come from?

Parakeets in the skies above Wormwood Scrubs, west London. Image: Getty.

Visitors to London’s many green spaces would have to be stubbornly looking at their feet to not see one of the UK’s most exotic birds.  Dubbed “posh pigeons” by unimaginative Londoners, these brilliant green parakeets stand out among the fauna of Northern Europe’s mostly grey cities.

‘Parakeets’ is actually an umbrella term referring to the multiple species, which can now be found in London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris and various German cities. By far the most common is the Indian ring-necked parakeet, easily recognisable by the stylish red ring around their neck, a matching red beak and, of course, the loud squawking.

In the last 50 years these migrants from South Asia have arrived and thrived, settling into their own ecological niche. In the UK, London is a particular stronghold, but although they may have originally settled in the leafy streets of Twickenham, the birds can now be found in cities as far north as Glasgow.

The story of how they ended up in London is a matter of some discussion and plenty of myth. One often reported theory is that the capitals’ current population are the descendants of birds that escaped from Shepperton Studios during filming of The African Queen, starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. Others would tell you that they escaped from Syon Park in the early 1970s, when a piece of debris from a passing plane damaged the aviary and allowed them to escape. This chimes with their original concentration in South West London.
My favourite story by far is that they were released by Jimi Hendrix on Carnaby Street in the late 60s. Bored of London’s grey skyline, he set the little fellas free to liven up the place.

However they got here, from 1970 onwards their numbers boomed. In 1992, 700 birds were recorded in London Bird Report. By 1998, 2,845 were seen in the London Area, and by 2006 the ring-neck parakeet was 15th most sighted bird in London.


Darwin would be proud at how well they adapted to the new environment. Toughened up by the hard Himalayan climate, they handle the cold northern European winters better than most locals. Global warming is often brought up in discussions of the parakeets, but it is certainly only part of the story.
It helps, too, that the birds have a 35 year lifespan and few local predators, enabling them to breed freely.

As with any new species, the debate has raged about whether they are harmful to the ecosystem. Strangely reminiscent of the debate over human migrants, often the birds have often been accused of stealing the homes of the natives. The parakeets do nest in tree cavities also used by jackdaws, owls and woodpeckers – but there is little evidence that native species are being muscled out. 

The also provide a food source for Britain's embattled birds of prey. Owls and peregrine falcons have been know to eat them. Charlie and Tom, two city dwelling falcons monitored by Nathalie Mahieu, often bring back parakeets as food.
Of more concern is the new arrivals’ effect on plants and trees. By 2009 their numbers in the UK had grown so much that they were added to the “general licence” of species, which can be killed without individual permission if they are causing damage.

And Parrotnet, am EU funded research project studying the development of parakeet populations across Europe, has warned of the risk they pose to agriculture. In their native India, the parakeets are known to cause widespread damage to crops. As agriculture develops in the UK in line with warmer climates, crops such as maize, grapes and sunflower will become more popular. In India the birds have been documented as reducing maize crops by 81 per cent.

So the parakeets remain divisive. Environmentalist Tony Juniper has disparagingly described them as “the grey squirrel of the skies”. By contrast, the University of York biologist Chris D. Thomas has argued that the parakeets should be left free to move and breed. He sees those wary of the parakeet boom of “irrational persecution” of the bird.

For good or ill the parakeets are here to stay. As so often with migrants of all kinds, there has been some unease about the impact they have had – but the birds, popular amongst Londoners, certainly add colour to the city. Thriving in the urban environment thousands of miles from their natural habitat, they are a metropolitan bird for Europe’s metropolitan cities. 

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