These are the most average homes in London: can you afford them?

House prices in London continue to rise far too quickly, with the effect of steadily reducing the quality of "average" housing.

House prices in Greater London jumped by an average of £50k last month, according to Rightmove, in a trend that it has called “unsustainable”.

The typical Londoner's response to this has been "yes, what else is new?" - it's not like it's a surprise to hear these things any more, even if the scale of the rise is quite astonishing. House prices have knock-on implications. Higher house prices mean higher average market rents, and that in turn drags up the pegged-at-80-percent-of-market-rents definition of “affordable housing”.

So the average matters. But what is it? Instead of relying on Rightmove, the Land Registry records every housing transaction every month. It's a little behind Rightmove - its records are updated when a property deal is completed, whereas Rightmove is talking about what houses have been listed as on its site in August - but it's comprehensive, and best of all it gives the address of each home.

It says that the average price of a property in Greater London is £359,650. What’s that going to buy you these days? 

Well, for starters, a flat in this building in Surbiton (that’s zone 6):

One of these terraced houses in Brent, with a garden that overlooks a railway depot:

A flat in this block in Battersea, which - until the Northern Line extension arrives later this decade - suffers from being in a public transport hole:

And if you’re a family wanting a home, there’s this quite nice new-build - but it’s in Biggin Hill, next to the air base there, and half an hour’s drive from any station to get you into London proper:

These homes cost £359,950 each, which is more than double the average house price for England and Wales. That's £164,654.

If you're someone who's moved to the capital recently from elsewhere in the country, and you can only afford something close to what you just sold, then it's even more depressing. Searching for properties sold for close to the England and Wales average gets you things like a flat in this building in Enfield:

Or a flat in this building in Bexley:

The things that link these properties - they're small, they're not close to the city centre, their transport links are mediocre, they're too small for families with more than one child - are all bad, and getting worse value for money with every passing month. I'd say it's a rubbish time to be a middle class Londoner, but when so much of your income is going on rent or a mortgage it's worth asking whether the middle class will be able to afford to be middle class at this rate. And as for the poor, Slough, Bradford and Leicester await.

(All screenshots taken from Google Street View.)

Ian Steadman is a staff science and technology writer at the New Statesman. He is on Twitter as @iansteadman.

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Calum Kerr on Governing the Digital Economy

With the publication of the UK Digital Strategy we’ve seen another instalment in the UK Government’s ongoing effort to emphasise its digital credentials.

As the SNP’s Digital Spokesperson, there are moves here that are clearly welcome, especially in the area of skills and a recognition of the need for large scale investment in fibre infrastructure.

But for a government that wants Britain to become the “leading country for people to use digital” it should be doing far more to lead on the field that underpins so much of a prosperous digital economy: personal data.

If you want a picture of how government should not approach personal data, just look at the Concentrix scandal.

Last year my constituency office, like countless others across the country, was inundated by cases from distressed Tax Credit claimants, who found their payments had been stopped for spurious reasons.

This scandal had its roots in the UK’s current patchwork approach to personal data. As a private contractor, Concentrix had bought data on a commercial basis and then used it to try and find undeclared partners living with claimants.

In one particularly absurd case, a woman who lived in housing provided by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation had to resort to using a foodbank during the appeals process in order to prove that she did not live with Joseph Rowntree: the Quaker philanthropist who died in 1925.

In total some 45,000 claimants were affected and 86 per cent of the resulting appeals saw the initial decision overturned.

This shows just how badly things can go wrong if the right regulatory regimes are not in place.

In part this problem is a structural one. Just as the corporate world has elevated IT to board level and is beginning to re-configure the interface between digital skills and the wider workforce, government needs to emulate practices that put technology and innovation right at the heart of the operation.

To fully leverage the benefits of tech in government and to get a world-class data regime in place, we need to establish a set of foundational values about data rights and citizenship.

Sitting on the committee of the Digital Economy Bill, I couldn’t help but notice how the elements relating to data sharing, including with private companies, were rushed through.

The lack of informed consent within the Bill will almost certainly have to be looked at again as the Government moves towards implementing the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation.

This is an example of why we need democratic oversight and an open conversation, starting from first principles, about how a citizen’s data can be accessed.

Personally, I’d like Scotland and the UK to follow the example of the Republic of Estonia, by placing transparency and the rights of the citizen at the heart of the matter, so that anyone can access the data the government holds on them with ease.

This contrasts with the mentality exposed by the Concentrix scandal: all too often people who come into contact with the state are treated as service users or customers, rather than as citizens.

This paternalistic approach needs to change.  As we begin to move towards the transformative implementation of the internet of things and 5G, trust will be paramount.

Once we have that foundation, we can start to grapple with some of the most pressing and fascinating questions that the information age presents.

We’ll need that trust if we want smart cities that make urban living sustainable using big data, if the potential of AI is to be truly tapped into and if the benefits of digital healthcare are really going to be maximised.

Clearly getting accepted ethical codes of practice in place is of immense significance, but there’s a whole lot more that government could be doing to be proactive in this space.

Last month Denmark appointed the world’s first Digital Ambassador and I think there is a compelling case for an independent Department of Technology working across all government departments.

This kind of levelling-up really needs to be seen as a necessity, because one thing that we can all agree on is that that we’ve only just scratched the surface when it comes to developing the link between government and the data driven digital economy. 

In January, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and the New Statesman convened a discussion on this topic with parliamentarians from each of the three main political parties and other experts.  This article is one of a series from three of the MPs who took part, with an  introduction from James Johns of HPE, Labour MP, Angela Eagle’s view and Conservative MP, Matt Warman’s view

Calum Kerr is SNP Westminster Spokesperson for Digital