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 (They’re a bit out of date because December was the most recent month for which we could find enough figures.)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.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

The Prevent strategy needs a rethink, not a rebrand

A bad policy by any other name is still a bad policy.

Yesterday the Home Affairs Select Committee published its report on radicalization in the UK. While the focus of the coverage has been on its claim that social media companies like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are “consciously failing” to combat the promotion of terrorism and extremism, it also reported on Prevent. The report rightly engages with criticism of Prevent, acknowledging how it has affected the Muslim community and calling for it to become more transparent:

“The concerns about Prevent amongst the communities most affected by it must be addressed. Otherwise it will continue to be viewed with suspicion by many, and by some as “toxic”… The government must be more transparent about what it is doing on the Prevent strategy, including by publicising its engagement activities, and providing updates on outcomes, through an easily accessible online portal.”

While this acknowledgement is good news, it is hard to see how real change will occur. As I have written previously, as Prevent has become more entrenched in British society, it has also become more secretive. For example, in August 2013, I lodged FOI requests to designated Prevent priority areas, asking for the most up-to-date Prevent funding information, including what projects received funding and details of any project engaging specifically with far-right extremism. I lodged almost identical requests between 2008 and 2009, all of which were successful. All but one of the 2013 requests were denied.

This denial is significant. Before the 2011 review, the Prevent strategy distributed money to help local authorities fight violent extremism and in doing so identified priority areas based solely on demographics. Any local authority with a Muslim population of at least five per cent was automatically given Prevent funding. The 2011 review pledged to end this. It further promised to expand Prevent to include far-right extremism and stop its use in community cohesion projects. Through these FOI requests I was trying to find out whether or not the 2011 pledges had been met. But with the blanket denial of information, I was left in the dark.

It is telling that the report’s concerns with Prevent are not new and have in fact been highlighted in several reports by the same Home Affairs Select Committee, as well as numerous reports by NGOs. But nothing has changed. In fact, the only change proposed by the report is to give Prevent a new name: Engage. But the problem was never the name. Prevent relies on the premise that terrorism and extremism are inherently connected with Islam, and until this is changed, it will continue to be at best counter-productive, and at worst, deeply discriminatory.

In his evidence to the committee, David Anderson, the independent ombudsman of terrorism legislation, has called for an independent review of the Prevent strategy. This would be a start. However, more is required. What is needed is a radical new approach to counter-terrorism and counter-extremism, one that targets all forms of extremism and that does not stigmatise or stereotype those affected.

Such an approach has been pioneered in the Danish town of Aarhus. Faced with increased numbers of youngsters leaving Aarhus for Syria, police officers made it clear that those who had travelled to Syria were welcome to come home, where they would receive help with going back to school, finding a place to live and whatever else was necessary for them to find their way back to Danish society.  Known as the ‘Aarhus model’, this approach focuses on inclusion, mentorship and non-criminalisation. It is the opposite of Prevent, which has from its very start framed British Muslims as a particularly deviant suspect community.

We need to change the narrative of counter-terrorism in the UK, but a narrative is not changed by a new title. Just as a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, a bad policy by any other name is still a bad policy. While the Home Affairs Select Committee concern about Prevent is welcomed, real action is needed. This will involve actually engaging with the Muslim community, listening to their concerns and not dismissing them as misunderstandings. It will require serious investigation of the damages caused by new Prevent statutory duty, something which the report does acknowledge as a concern.  Finally, real action on Prevent in particular, but extremism in general, will require developing a wide-ranging counter-extremism strategy that directly engages with far-right extremism. This has been notably absent from today’s report, even though far-right extremism is on the rise. After all, far-right extremists make up half of all counter-radicalization referrals in Yorkshire, and 30 per cent of the caseload in the east Midlands.

It will also require changing the way we think about those who are radicalized. The Aarhus model proves that such a change is possible. Radicalization is indeed a real problem, one imagines it will be even more so considering the country’s flagship counter-radicalization strategy remains problematic and ineffective. In the end, Prevent may be renamed a thousand times, but unless real effort is put in actually changing the strategy, it will remain toxic. 

Dr Maria Norris works at London School of Economics and Political Science. She tweets as @MariaWNorris.