Six things we learned from today’s ONS house price index

Yeah, good luck with that, mate. Image: Getty.

It’s another lovely sunny day here in London – perfect weather for chilling out and drinking wine and generally not having a care in the world. So what better way is there to really rain on your parade than by talking about the bloody housing crisis yet again?

Yep. The Office for National Statistics just put out another set of data showing that – sit down, this may come as a shock – house prices have risen. Again. They climbed by 8.7 per cent in the year to June. Your wages, the odds are, didn't.

This data only covers the period to the end of June: if Britain's vote to leave the European Union on 23 June has had any impact on home values, then it almost certainly won't show up in this data.

But that caveat out the way, here's what we learned.

The average UK house price stood at £214,000 in June 2016.

Based on standard mortgage rates (10 per cent deposit, 4.5 times income multiple), you now need to be earning £42,800 a year and have £21,400 in the bank to buy that house. Easy, right? You've got that?

Oh – the price is also up £2,100 in a month, and £17,000 in a year. So if you're saving for a home, and put away less than £1,700 this year, you're actually slightly further away from your target than you were last summer.

(Obviously these figures are based on a single earner rather than a couple, and very few first time buyers buy the average house, and yada yada yada. I'm just illustrating a point here.)

The rate at which prices have risen has been accelerating.

It's not just that prices have been climbing: they've been increasing the rate at which they climb. Check out this graph:

That's not prices, that's just the rate of increase in prices. Which has itself been increasing since last autumn. Before that, it increased steadily from autumn 2012 to autumn 2014.

The dip between those two periods probably coincides with uncertainty around last year's general election. (For a while, prices increased, but did so more slowly. Great.) It wouldn't be crazy to imagine that we might see something similar post-Brexit. Watch this space.

The UK average is being distorted by England...

Scotland and Wales still look relatively affordable:

Mind you, the really striking thing here is Northern Ireland. That was one hell of a crash.

...and England is being distorted by London.

Prices in the capital are well over twice those outside the south. They're over four times those in the north east.

So house prices are higher in the south of England than in the north. Generally, much higher.

That said, it'd be a mistake to assume this means that the housing crisis isn't a national phenomenon. Remember this graph from the Resolution Foundation?

Click to expand.

Home ownership rates have fallen almost everywhere; and the single biggest fall actually came in Greater Manchester, a long way from London.

London prices make its housing crisis the most visible. But cheaper house prices aren't much help if wages are lower, too. 

But the biggest increase in prices came in the East of England.

This graph shows the percentage increase in house prices in each of the eight English regions over the last year.

Prices are up, significantly, everywhere but the north east (and even there, that increase is still three times the 0.6 per cent increase in consumer prices).

But they're up by far the most in and around London. And they're up most of all in the East of England (that's Essex, Herts, Beds, and East Anglia).

It's probably a mistake to see this phenomenon as separate from London's housing boom. Much of that region is in London's commuter zone (bits of it are even on the tube). It may be that people are paying more for homes in Hertfordshire because they've been priced out of north London or Surrey.

But London might finally have peaked.

Last chart. This one shows the local authorities where prices have increased, or fallen, by the most over the past year.

Look at the bottom half of the chart. Kensington & Chelsea, and Hammersmith & Fulham, are two plush West London boroughs, fashionable along the sort of people who use London property as safe deposit boxes. These figures are not good news for the Prime London property market, or the sort of estate agents who sell in it. Poor lambs.

These figures, as noted, pre-date Brexit. There's been a fair amount of debate as to what that will do to house prices: as with any economic shock, it might well hit the housing market.

What it probably won't do, though, is make housing more affordable in the long term. As Shelter's Pete Jefferys wrote last month, a house price crash will hit housebuilders too – and anything that makes them less likely to build is bad news.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @jonnelledge.

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America's cities can't police their way out of this crisis

Police deployed tear gas during anti-racism demonstrations in Los Angeles over the weekend. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

As protesters took to the streets across the United States over the weekend to express their anger at police killings of unarmed black Americans, it was hard to miss the hypocrisy coming from local authorities – including the otherwise progressive, left-leaning officials who are in power in most major American cities. 

Many US mayors and their police chiefs had issued public statements over the past week that seemed – only briefly, as it turned out – to signal a meaningful shift in the extent to which the Black Lives Matters movement is being taken seriously by those who are in a position to enact reforms. 

The sheer depravity of the most recent high-profile killing had left little room for equivocation. George Floyd, 46, died last Monday under the knee of white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, while three additional officers helped to hold Floyd down, doing nothing to aid him as he begged for them to stop and eventually lost consciousness. The officers had been attempting to arrest Floyd on suspicion of having used a counterfeit $20 bill at a deli. All four have since been fired, and Chauvin was arrested Friday on charges of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. 

“The lack of compassion, use of excessive force, or going beyond the scope of the law, doesn’t just tarnish our badge—it tears at the very fabric of race relations in this country,” Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore told the Washington Post in response to the Floyd case. Meanwhile Moore’s boss, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, on Friday claimed that he understood why his city, which is no stranger to police brutality, was protesting. “We absolutely need as a nation, certainly as a city, to voice our outrage, it’s our patriotic duty to not only stand up for George Floyd but for everybody who has been killed unnecessarily, who’s been murdered for the structural racism that we have in our country,” Garcetti said. 

Normally, US police chiefs and mayors tend to ask citizens to withhold judgment on these types of cases until full investigations can be completed. But a 10-minute video recording of Floyd’s killing had made what happened plain. Police chiefs across the country – and even the nation’s largest police union, which is notorious for defending officer abuses – similarly condemned the actions of the Minneapolis officers, in a rare show of moral clarity that, combined with the arrest of Chauvin, offered at least a glimmer of hope that this time things might be different. 

As the events of the weekend have since shown, that glimmer was all too fleeting. 

In city after city over the past three days, US mayors and their police chiefs made a series of the same decisions – starting with the deployment of large, heavily armed riot units – that ultimately escalated violent confrontations between officers and protesters. Images widely shared on social media Saturday and Sunday nights made it clear that members of law enforcement were often initiating the worst of the violence, and appeared to treat protesters as enemy combatants, rather than citizens they were sworn to protect. 

In New York City, two police SUVs were seen plowing into a crowd of protesters, while elsewhere an officer was recorded pulling down a young protester’s coronavirus mask in order to pepper spray his face

In Louisville, the city where Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old black woman was fatally shot by police on 13 March, state police in riot gear were captured confiscating and destroying protesters’ supplies

In Minneapolis, forces opened fire with nonlethal rounds on residential streets, much to the shock of homeowners standing on their own front porches. 

Images of police pushing or shoving peaceful protesters were almost too numerous to count, including, in Salt Lake City, an elderly man with a cane

In many places, police also targeted journalists who were covering the protests, firing at clearly identifiable media crews with rubber bullets, injuring and even arresting reporters

Some protesters did commit acts of vandalism and looting, and the leaders of cities where that happened generally responded in the same ways. 

First, they blamed “outside agitators” for the worst protester behaviour, a claim that harkens all the way back to the civil rights era and for which the evidence is murky at best

Next, they enacted sudden curfews with little to no warning, which gave law enforcement an excuse to make mass arrests, in some cases violently. 

In a pair of widely criticized moves, Garcetti of Los Angeles closed the city’s Covid-19 testing centers and suspended the entire mass transit system Saturday evening, stranding essential workers on their way home from daytime shifts. Late Sunday night in Chicago, the city’s public school system halted its free meal distribution service for low-income children, citing “the evolving nature of activity across the city”.  

Governors in at least 12 US states, in coordination with city leaders, have since called in National Guard troops to “help”. 

At this point it’s clear that the leaders of America’s cities are in desperate need of a radically different playbook to respond to these protests. A heavily armed, militarised response to long-simmering anger toward the heavily armed, militarised approach to American policing is more than ironic – it’s ineffective. Granting police officers wider latitude to make arrests via curfews also seems destined to increase the chances of precisely the tragic, racially biased outcomes to which the protesters are reacting. 

There are other options. In places such as Flint, Michigan, and Camden, New Jersey – both poor cities home to large black populations – local law enforcement officials chose to put down their weapons and march alongside protesters, rather than face off against them. In the case of Camden, that the city was able to avoid violent clashes is in no small part related to the fact that it took the drastic step of disbanding its former police department altogether several years ago, replacing it with an entirely new structure. 

America’s cities are in crisis, in more ways than one. It’s not a coincidence that the country has tipped into chaos following months of emotionally draining stay-at-home orders and job losses that now top 40 million. Low-income Americans of colour have borne a disproportionate share of the pandemic’s ravages, and public health officials are already worried about the potential for protests to become Covid-19 super-spreading events.

All of this has of course been spurred on by the US president, who in addition to calling Sunday for mayors and governors to “get tough” on protesters, has made emboldening white nationalists his signature. Notably, Trump didn’t call on officials to get tough on the heavily armed white protesters who stormed the Michigan Capitol building over coronavirus stay-at-home orders just a few weeks ago. 

US mayors and their police chiefs have publicly claimed that they do understand – agree with, even – the anger currently spilling out onto their streets. But as long as they continue to respond to that anger by deploying large numbers of armed and armored law enforcement personnel who do not actually live in the cities they serve, who appear to be more outraged by property damage and verbal insults than by the killings of black Americans at the hands of their peers, and who are enmeshed in a dangerously violent and racist policing culture that perceives itself to be the real victim, it is hard to see how this crisis will improve anytime soon. 

Sommer Mathis is the editor of CityMetric.