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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There's nothing Luddite about banning zero-hours contracts

The TUC general secretary responds to the Taylor Review. 

Unions have been criticised over the past week for our lukewarm response to the Taylor Review. According to the report’s author we were wrong to expect “quick fixes”, when “gradual change” is the order of the day. “Why aren’t you celebrating the new ‘flexibility’ the gig economy has unleashed?” others have complained.

Our response to these arguments is clear. Unions are not Luddites, and we recognise that the world of work is changing. But to understand these changes, we need to recognise that we’ve seen shifts in the balance of power in the workplace that go well beyond the replacement of a paper schedule with an app.

Years of attacks on trade unions have reduced workers’ bargaining power. This is key to understanding today’s world of work. Economic theory says that the near full employment rates should enable workers to ask for higher pay – but we’re still in the middle of the longest pay squeeze for 150 years.

And while fears of mass unemployment didn’t materialise after the economic crisis, we saw working people increasingly forced to accept jobs with less security, be it zero-hours contracts, agency work, or low-paid self-employment.

The key test for us is not whether new laws respond to new technology. It’s whether they harness it to make the world of work better, and give working people the confidence they need to negotiate better rights.

Don’t get me wrong. Matthew Taylor’s review is not without merit. We support his call for the abolishment of the Swedish Derogation – a loophole that has allowed employers to get away with paying agency workers less, even when they are doing the same job as their permanent colleagues.

Guaranteeing all workers the right to sick pay would make a real difference, as would asking employers to pay a higher rate for non-contracted hours. Payment for when shifts are cancelled at the last minute, as is now increasingly the case in the United States, was a key ask in our submission to the review.

But where the report falls short is not taking power seriously. 

The proposed new "dependent contractor status" carries real risks of downgrading people’s ability to receive a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. Here new technology isn’t creating new risks – it’s exacerbating old ones that we have fought to eradicate.

It’s no surprise that we are nervous about the return of "piece rates" or payment for tasks completed, rather than hours worked. Our experience of these has been in sectors like contract cleaning and hotels, where they’re used to set unreasonable targets, and drive down pay. Forgive us for being sceptical about Uber’s record of following the letter of the law.

Taylor’s proposals on zero-hours contracts also miss the point. Those on zero hours contracts – working in low paid sectors like hospitality, caring, and retail - are dependent on their boss for the hours they need to pay their bills. A "right to request" guaranteed hours from an exploitative boss is no right at all for many workers. Those in insecure jobs are in constant fear of having their hours cut if they speak up at work. Will the "right to request" really change this?

Tilting the balance of power back towards workers is what the trade union movement exists for. But it’s also vital to delivering the better productivity and growth Britain so sorely needs.

There is plenty of evidence from across the UK and the wider world that workplaces with good terms and conditions, pay and worker voice are more productive. That’s why the OECD (hardly a left-wing mouth piece) has called for a new debate about how collective bargaining can deliver more equality, more inclusion and better jobs all round.

We know as a union movement that we have to up our game. And part of that thinking must include how trade unions can take advantage of new technologies to organise workers.

We are ready for this challenge. Our role isn’t to stop changes in technology. It’s to make sure technology is used to make working people’s lives better, and to make sure any gains are fairly shared.

Frances O'Grady is the General Secretary of the TUC.