Housing charity Shelter has released a tube map of rental affordability and it is the saddest thing

Oh, god. Image: Shelter.

If you’re planning on living in London any time soon, and you’re neither an investment banker nor someone who conveniently already owns a house there, then, odds are, you’re going to be renting a home.

Good luck with that, because you probably can’t afford it – or at least, not a home with enough space to swing the proverbial. Shelter, a housing charity that can always be relied upon to bring you sunshine, has – in a transparent bid to be featured on CityMetric – put together a tube map of rental affordability.

The map has abandoned the traditional fare zone structure, and introduced three new zones. The vast majority of the network falls into its new “Zone 1” (“Unaffordable”) which means that the average cost of a two-bed rental property will cost more than half the average take home pay of a two-wage household*.

In Zone 2 (“Difficult to afford”) that flat will cost between 35 per cent and 50 per cent of that average income. That covers a couple of dozen suburban stations to the north and west, and various bits of outer east London.

Click to expand, and weep.

To find truly affordable housing, however, you need to look to Shelter’s Zone 3, where you can get that two-bed rental property of your dreams for less than 35 per cent of the average household income. That, though, means moving to London’s easternmost borough Havering, at the far end of the District line; or to stretches of the Metropolitan or Central lines that are actually outside London altogether.

Oh, and just 15 of the network’s 270 stations fall into this zone.

On the one hand this map is a bit of a fudge. Not all of London is on the tube (indeed, many of its cheapest areas aren’t; that’s one of the main reasons they’re so cheap). What’s more, a two person household doesn’t actually need two bedrooms.

On the other hand, though... oh, god. Oh god. 

Anyway, at least it’s the weekend, so you get to spend the next two days in that cupboard under the stairs that currently serves as your bedroom, and which you’re frightened to show your mum. Enjoy.

My mum says if I get 10,000 likes on Facebook I can have a new Playstation so please like us.

*One person working full-time, one part-time. More of the technical stuff on Shelter’s website here.


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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