Sunday, 6 May 2012

The Londonland property market

In the Observer today Eva Wiseman has a column about how many people of her generation will never be able to afford to buy a house or a flat or whatever.

Reading it makes blood pour out of every orifice because of how wrong she is.
Because for most people I know, owning a house will no doubt remain a fantasy. It's something that's become clear over the past few years – that those of us who live in cities, whose jobs are not secure, who are flitting from call centre to job centre and back again throughout our 20s and 30s, whose parents don't have property portfolios, those of us who are single, or still trying to do art or music or something they dreamed of, are unlikely to be able to afford the deposit for a flat. ...

In my borough, Tower Hamlets (one of the poorest areas in the UK), the charity Shelter calculates that the annual earnings a tenant needs to make renting a flat affordable are £67,669. It's a figure I find difficult to read out loud without lisping, let alone conceive of earning myself. It's not achievable – in fact, it makes me feel like I'm going a bit mad. And it highlights the ever-lurking threat of homelessness – that slow slide over a year from being made redundant, to being priced out of your shared flat, to carrying your rucksack between friends' futons, and then, after a clipped conversation in their little blue kitchen, sitting on a bench at dawn with nowhere to go.
I live up in Walthamstow, which is about three miles up the River Lee from Tower Hamlets, I live in a pleasant rented two bedroom flat and the annual earnings for our household is around £50,000, rent is £800 a month. If we bought the place the mortgage would be about £700 a month.

I spend hours ploughing through the RightMove property website in my spare time, putting together graphs of rents and house prices for different areas, because this entertains my otherwise dreary time.

Average rents in Tower Hamlets £1,777 a month compared to about £1,690 a year ago, they're about up 5% about in line with inflation.

However, Walthamstow, three miles away has average rents of about £1,200 a month, up from £1,100 a year before, so more than £500 less than Tower Hamlets.

Eva Wiseman's friends, flitting between call centre jobs, presumably on minimum wage, are unable to buy flats in expensive areas. What's the problem? Why can't they live in Walthamstow, its a lot more affordable, its got a Waterstones and a Sainsburys, and an Asda.

If they really want to own a house, why not try in an area they can afford, rather than an area they can't afford.

Further more, I've lived on minimum wage recently, its difficult, there's only one minimum wage, its the same in London as it is in the rest of the UK. London's hellish expensive, its the most expensive place to live in the UK, of course.

So, if Eva's friends are flitting between call centre jobs, why not do it where the minimum wage goes a lot further. Average rents in Motherwell, are £513 a month.

Minimum wage is about £1,200 a month. You can't afford to live in Tower Hamlets on your own, in Walthamstow you could live there, but would starve. In Motherwell, you could afford two flats and still have money for the pub.

Eva Wiseman's problem and that of her friends, is that they think the house prices in the middle of London are normal, when actually they are abnormal compared to the rest of the country. She ought to cast her eyes further afield.

If she's looking for affordable housing, why is she looking at the most expensive places
Elsewhere in "prime" London – Chelsea, Mayfair, Knightsbridge – estate agents say they are seeing a buying "frenzy". One was recently quoted as having clients who are purchasing their sixth properties, or one for them and another for the kids. He recalled a buyer asking if he had any homes for sale for £30m. "I had one at £50m, so I said: 'Is there room for movement?', and they said no – the other children had £30m spent on their properties, so it wouldn't be fair."
There's plenty of affordable housing if you don't focus on the the >£30m end of the market.

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