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.


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.