Mapping the UK’s housing wealth

Image: Barney Stringer

Housing in the UK is “worth” around £6 trillion – but that value is very unevenly distributed. So, here's a map which shows total housing wealth in London, rather than simply house prices.

For those interested in the detail, I’ve used the total housing asset value based on the Land Registry’s average house prices for 2013, and dwelling numbers from the 2011 census. The 3D height is proportional to the density of value – £ per square inch, as it were – so the volume of a column is proportional to total housing asset value.

House prices in parts of the priciest suburbs, such as Richmond or Kingston, are not so far behind Kensington or Westminster. In central London, however, there are far more of these expensive houses together in a far smaller area. As a result, the total amount of housing wealth is stacked far higher here than anywhere else.

This map highlights how extreme the concentration of housing wealth has become. Take a wider view, and you can see that nowhere else in the country comes anywhere close.

Housing makes up the large proportion of the country’s net asset value, and it may not be healthy that this value is so concentrated. Housebuilding – creating new housing assets – would be a good way to spread this wealth further and more fairly.


Update, 16/10:

I've had a number of requests for a wider view, below. Unfortunately the 3D rendering can't cope, but I've kept the colour coding the same, and it tells much the same story.

Housing in Inner London is “worth” a third more than all the housing in Wales and Scotland put together. Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea alone have housing valued at £260 billion, more than the total of housing in the 55 “lowest value” local authorities.

Barney Stringer is a director of regeneration consultancy Quod, who writes about cities, economics and infrastructure. This article was originally posted on his blog 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.