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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Covid-19 is highlighting cities' unequal access to green space

In the UK, Londoners are most likely to rely on their local park for green space, and have the best access to parks. (Leon Neal/Getty Images)

As coronavirus lockdowns ease, people are flooding back to parks – but not everyone has easy access to green space in their city.

Statistics from Google show that park attendance in countries across the globe has shot up as people have been allowed to move around their cities again.

This is especially true in urban areas, where densely populated neighbourhoods limit the size of private green space – meaning residents have to go to the park to get in touch with nature. Readers from England can use our interactive tool below to find out how much green space people have access to in their area, and how it compares to the rest of the country.

 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement Monday that people are allowed to mingle in parks and gardens with groups of up to six people was partially following what people were doing already.

Data from mobile phones show people have been returning to parks across the UK, and also across Europe, as weather improves and lockdown eases.

People have been returning to parks across the world

Stay-at-home requirements were eased in Italy on 4 May, which led to a flood of people returning to parks.

France eased restrictions on 1 May, and the UK eased up slightly on 13 May, allowing people to sit down in public places so long as they remain socially distanced.

Other countries have seen park attendance rise without major easing of lockdown – including Canada, Spain, and the US (although states there have individual rules and some have eased restrictions).

In some countries, people never really stopped going to parks.

Authorities in the Netherlands and Germany were not as strict as other countries about their citizens visiting local parks during lockdown, while Sweden has famously been avoiding placing many restrictions on people’s daily lives.


There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that access to green space has major benefits for public health.

A recent study by researchers at the University of Exeter found that spending time in the garden is linked to similar benefits for health and wellbeing as living in wealthy areas.

People with access to a private garden also had higher psychological wellbeing, and those with an outdoor space such as a yard were more likely to meet physical activity guidelines than those without access to outdoor space. 

Separate UK research has found that living with a regular view of a green space provides health benefits worth £300 per person per year.

Access is not shared equally, however, which has important implications for equality under lockdown, and the spread of disease.

Statistics from the UK show that one in eight households has no garden, making access to parks more important.

There is a geographic inequality here. Londoners, who have the least access to private gardens, are most likely to rely on their local park for green space, and have the best access to parks. 

However the high population in the capital means that on the whole, green space per person is lower – an issue for people living in densely populated cities everywhere.

There is also an occupational inequality.

Those on low pay – including in what are statistically classed as “semi-skilled” and “unskilled” manual occupations, casual workers and those who are unemployed – are almost three times as likely as those in managerial, administrative, professional occupations to be without a garden, meaning they rely more heavily on their local park.

Britain’s parks and fields are also at significant risk of development, according to new research by the Fields in Trust charity, which shows the number of people living further than a 10-minute walk from a public park rising by 5% over the next five years. That loss of green spaces is likely to impact disadvantaged communities the most, the researchers say.

This is borne out by looking at the parts of the country that have private gardens.

The least deprived areas have the largest gardens

Though the relationship is not crystal clear, it shows at the top end: Those living in the least deprived areas have the largest private green space.

Although the risk of catching coronavirus is lower outdoors, spending time in parks among other people is undoubtedly more risky when it comes to transmitting or catching the virus than spending time in your own outdoor space. 

Access to green space is therefore another example – along with the ability to work from home and death rates – of how the burden of the pandemic has not been equally shouldered by all.

Michael Goodier is a data reporter at New Statesman Media Group, and Josh Rayman is a graphics and data visualisation developer at New Statesman Media Group.