This map shows that London is the epicentre of the house price crisis

You will never own one of these: London houses from the air. Image: Getty.

Sometimes a map makes a point so simply, so eloquently, that any words one writes to accompany it feel almost superfluous. Writing superfluous words is, however, literally what they pay me for, so I guess I’d better get on with it.

The diagram below shows, effectively, what has happened to house prices in England and Wales since the financial crash. Each parliamentary constituency in the United Kingdom appears as a single identically-sized hexagon, its colour chosen to represent what happened to house prices in the area between 2007 and 2016:

  • House prices in constituencies shown in red have fallen;
  • Those in yellow have risen by less than 25 per cent; that, over nine years, works out at around 2.5 per cent a year or less, so given inflation effectively equates to price stability;
  • Those in green have risen more markedly – the light green by 25-50 per cent, the mid green by 50-75 per cent, the dark green by 75 per cent or more;
  • Those in grey – that is, Scotland and Northern Ireland – don’t have comparable data. Boo.
  • It’s the work of Imactivate – the software and data company of occasional CityMetric-er Tom Forth.

Right, that’s the spiel out of the way. Here’s the map:

To see the full-size version, right click and select 'Open in a new tab'.

Paints a picture, doesn’t it?

The picture it paints, I would suggest, is that of what one might term “the London effect”. The greatest price growth has come in the centre of the city, and those areas of north east and south London that have become a lot more fashionable over the last decade. The greatest increase of all that I can find is in Hackney North & Stoke Newington, where prices literally doubled in nine years.

The further you go from the capital, though, the smaller the price rises have been. Most of Greater London and the inner ring of commuter towns has seen prices rise by more than half; but there are more stately increases in the area beyond, and those places outside the commuter belt have barely seen increases at all. Go far enough from London, in fact, to the more far flung bits of Wales or parts of the north, and prices have actually fallen.

There are two noteworthy exceptions to this broad pattern. It’s probably correct to think of the block of green around Bath and Bristol as its own housing market, rather than an extension of the London one: prices anecdotally have been pushed up there by Londoners selling-up and moving out, but they’re a bit too far out to be commuter territory, really.

Then there’s the smaller green area in Trafford to the west of Manchester. That may reflect both the resurgence of central Manchester and the rise of Salford Quays, although the fact the growth hasn’t spread beyond those plushest southern suburbs is perhaps telling.

So how should we interpret all this? It probably at least partly reflects a decade of low interest rates and a shortage of other good assets at which rich people can throw their capital. London has risen most because it’s a world city: you can see similar effects in New York and San Francisco and Sydney and Toronto.

Then there’s the argument of the economist Frances Coppola, who tweeted the map with the comment, “There is no housing crisis. There is an agglomeration effect” - that is, more and more people and jobs being sucked into London. Downthread, she added:

I’m not entirely sold on this argument. (Well, I wouldn’t be, would I?) My sense has always been that people are following jobs, rather than housing – if the availability of housing was the key pull factor, we’d see more people moving to those many parts of the country that don’t have London’s housing crisis. Basically, I don’t see how not building more in and around London helps anyone, except possibly the Campaign to Protect Rural England – and since they need to fundraise, I’m not even sure it helps them.

It’s also worth noting that home ownership rates haven’t just fallen in London, but in most major conurbations. (See this 2016 Resolution Foundation report.) If prices have “only” risen by a quarter since 2007, when they were already eye-wateringly high, they’re still a long way out of the reach of many young people.


 So while this map shows that the house price insanity is at its worst in and around London, I think there’s a limit to what it tells us about how affordable housing is nationwide, or whether building more is the solution to it.

Oh, and it’s also, as analyst Neal Hudson notes, a reflection only of the prices of homes sold, not of those which haven’t come to market. So.

You can play with more Imactivate house price maps here.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook here

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What's actually in the UK government’s bailout package for Transport for London?

Wood Green Underground station, north London. Image: Getty.

On 14 May, hours before London’s transport authority ran out of money, the British government agreed to a financial rescue package. Many details of that bailout – its size, the fact it was roughly two-thirds cash and one-third loan, many conditions attached – have been known about for weeks. 

But the information was filtered through spokespeople, because the exact terms of the deal had not been published. This was clearly a source of frustration for London’s mayor Sadiq Khan, who stood to take the political heat for some of the ensuing cuts (to free travel for the old or young, say), but had no way of backing up his contention that the British government made him do it.

That changed Tuesday when Transport for London published this month's board papers, which include a copy of the letter in which transport secretary Grant Shapps sets out the exact terms of the bailout deal. You can read the whole thing here, if you’re so minded, but here are the three big things revealed in the new disclosure.

Firstly, there’s some flexibility in the size of the deal. The bailout was reported to be worth £1.6 billion, significantly less than the £1.9 billion that TfL wanted. In his letter, Shapps spells it out: “To the extent that the actual funding shortfall is greater or lesser than £1.6bn then the amount of Extraordinary Grant and TfL borrowing will increase pro rata, up to a maximum of £1.9bn in aggregate or reduce pro rata accordingly”. 

To put that in English, London’s transport network will not be grinding to a halt because the government didn’t believe TfL about how much money it would need. Up to a point, the money will be available without further negotiations.

The second big takeaway from these board papers is that negotiations will be going on anyway. This bail out is meant to keep TfL rolling until 17 October; but because the agency gets around three-quarters of its revenues from fares, and because the pandemic means fares are likely to be depressed for the foreseeable future, it’s not clear what is meant to happen after that. Social distancing, the board papers note, means that the network will only be able to handle 13 to 20% of normal passenger numbers, even when every service is running.


Shapps’ letter doesn’t answer this question, but it does at least give a sense of when an answer may be forthcoming. It promises “an immediate and broad ranging government-led review of TfL’s future financial position and future financial structure”, which will publish detailed recommendations by the end of August. That will take in fares, operating efficiencies, capital expenditure, “the current fiscal devolution arrangements” – basically, everything. 

The third thing we leaned from that letter is that, to the first approximation, every change to London’s transport policy that is now being rushed through was an explicit condition of this deal. Segregated cycle lanes, pavement extensions and road closures? All in there. So are the suspension of free travel for people under 18, or free peak-hours travel for those over 60. So are increases in the level of the congestion charge.

Many of these changes may be unpopular, but we now know they are not being embraced by London’s mayor entirely on their own merit: They’re being pushed by the Department of Transport as a condition of receiving the bailout. No wonder Khan was miffed that the latter hadn’t been published.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.