At least estate agents are happy. Image: Getty.
Show Hide image

Two charts that show why London home buyers are totally screwed

Everybody move to Paris.

More hilarious news from the London housing market. In the year to June, the average house price in the city climbed 25.8 per cent. The average price has now breached £400,000 for the first time.

To put that in a context, a healthy mortgage is generally agreed to cover no more than 90 per cent of a property's value, and to represent a maximum of 4.5 times the borrowers' income. So a couple of first-time-buyers hoping to buy an average London home would need a joint income of £78,000, putting them in the richest 4 per cent of households in the country. Oh, and they'll also need £40,000 in the bank.

Should you already own your own home in the city, and are consequently mystified that anyone could consider this a problem – congratulations on successfully having been born at the right time.

All this looks a lot like a bubble – prices are rising at their fastest rate since 1987, and look what happened then – but it's in the nature of bubbles that we can't be certain we're in one until they burst. So in the mean time, here are two charts.

The first one compares price increases in London with those in various other major world cities, over the course of 2013. (They’re a bit out of date because December was the most recent month for which we could find enough figures.) We've compiled it using data from the Bank of International Settlements, and the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Prices Index: the various indexes it's based on work in slightly different ways and cover slightly different things, so we're not claiming the figures are anything more than indicative. Nonetheless, they do give you a sense of the trends in various cities.

London is an outlier – but it's not the only place having a crazy house price boom. Prices have gone nuts in Sydney and Shanghai, too. The difference is, of course, that Australia and China both have much faster growing economies than the UK, much of which still remains in the doldrums.

All that said, it looks like a great time to buy a nice pied-a-terre in Paris, if you've got the cash to hand.

This second chart uses data from government research, asking the public whether they were in favour of building new houses in their area. The polling was conducted in 2011, so it's just possible attitudes have changed in the mean time. Either way, though, it explains rather a lot.

In inner London, where land is scarce and most people rent, everyone wants more housing. But in outer London, where there's more space, and where any major new housing programme is realistically going to have to begin, opposition to house building is stronger than the national average. In fact, people in outer London oppose house building more strongly than people in any other region of England.

So to sum up, we're screwed.

This is a preview of our new sister publication, CityMetric. We'll be launching its website soon - in the meantime, you can follow it on Twitter and Facebook.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.

European People's Party via Creative Commons
Show Hide image

Ansbach puts Europe's bravest politician under pressure

Angela Merkel must respond to a series of tragedies and criticisms of her refugee policy. 

Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, is supposed to be on holiday. Two separate attacks have put an end to that. The first, a mass shooting in Munich, was at first widely believed to be a terrorist attack, but later turned out to be the actions of a loner obsessed with US high school shootings. The second, where a man blew himself up in the town of Ansbach, caused less physical damage - three were seriously injured, but none killed. Nevertheless, this event may prove to affect even more people's lives. Because that man had come to Germany claiming to be a Syrian refugee. 

The attack came hours after a Syrian refugee murdered a pregnant Polish woman, a co-woker in a snack bar, in Reutlingen. All eyes will now be on Merkel who, more than any other European politician, is held responsible for Syrian refugees in Europe.

In 2015, when other European states were erecting barriers to keep out the million migrants and refugees marching north, Merkel kept Germany's borders open. The country has resettled 41,899 Syrians since 2013, according to the UNHCR, of which 20,067 came on humanitarian grounds and 21,832 through private sponsorship. That is twice as much as the UK has pledged to resettle by 2020. The actual number of Syrians in Germany is far higher - 90 per cent of the 102,400 Syrians applying for EU asylum in the first quarter of 2016 were registered there. 

Merkel is the bravest of Europe's politicians. Contrary to some assertions on the right, she did not invent the refugee crisis. Five years of brutal war in Syria did that. Merkel was simply the first of the continent's most prominent leaders to stop ignoring it. If Germany had not absorbed so many refugees, they would still be in central Europe and the Balkans, and we would be seeing even more pictures of starved children in informal camps than we do today. 

Equally, the problems facing Merkel now are not hers alone. These are the problems facing all of Europe's major states, whether or not they recognise them. 

Take the failed Syrian asylum seeker of Ansbach (his application was rejected but he could not be deported back to a warzone). In Germany, his application could at least be considered, and rejected. Europe as a whole has not invested in the processing centres required to determine who is a Syrian civilian, who might be a Syrian combatant and who is simply taking advantage of the black market in Syrian passports to masquerade as a refugee. 

Secondly, there is the subject of trauma. The Munich shooter appears to have had no links to Islamic State or Syria, but his act underlines the fact you do not need a grand political narrative to inflict hurt on others. Syrians who have experienced unspeakable violence either in their homeland or en route to Europe are left psychologically damaged. That is not to suggest they will turn to violence. But it is still safer to offer such people therapy than leave them to drift around Europe, unmonitored and unsupported, as other countries seem willing to do. 

Third, there is the question of lawlessness. Syrians have been blamed for everything from the Cologne attacks in January to creeping Islamist radicalisation. But apart from the fact that these reports can turn out to be overblown (two of the 58 men arrested over Cologne were Syrians), it is unclear what the alternative would be. Policies that force Syrians underground have already greatly empowered Europe's network of human traffickers and thugs.

So far, Merkel seems to be standing her ground. Her home affairs spokesman, Stephan Mayer, told the BBC that Germany had room to improve on its asylum policy, but stressed each attack was different. 

He said: "Horrible things take place in Syria. And it is the biggest humanitarian catastrophe, so it is completely wrong to blame Angela Merkel, or her refugee policies, for these incidents." Many will do, all the same.