1. Governance
March 30, 2016updated 04 Aug 2023 8:56am

Some depressing maps on the state of London's private rental market

By Jonn Elledge

Every year, the National Housing Federation produces its Home Truths report, in which it outlines some of the numbers on Britain’s current housing market, and tries to quantify exactly how screwed we all are.

This year’s report included some particularly cheery news about London’s ever enjoyable rental market. And, long story short, we’re pretty screwed.

Actually, that’s not fair. If you rent your home through London’s private rental sector; if you want or need to move to the city, for any reason; if you run a business dependent on the employment or custom of young Londoners – then, yes, you’re basically screwed. Sorry.

If you’re a landlord, though, it’s party time. Go landlords. (No, seriously. Please go.)

Aaaanyway. We’ve made a map, using the National Housing Federation’s data to show average rents in each borough. (The data is two years old, I’m afraid, but it’s the most recent we’ve got.)

Some caveats before we proceed. The numbers we’re looking at here are for private sector rents only (in social housing, you’d pay rather less). They’re also simple averages of rents per property. The numbers take no account of what it is that you get for your money: an (entirely theoretical) area filled entirely with big houses would likely have higher rents than (an equally theoretically) one filled with tiny flats.

But that behind us, here’s the map. As ever, darker colours mean higher rents.

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Click to expand.

It’s a pretty familiar pattern. West is pricier than east, north is pricier than south, and the centre is generally more expensive than the suburbs.

The only major exception to this trend is the south western borough of Richmond-upon-Thames, which is almost exclusively suburban in character, but where – thanks to its wide selection of large and expensive houses – average rents stood, in 2014, at £1,860 a month.

(It’s probably also worth noting that the difference between average rents in the two inner south London boroughs of Lambeth (£1,476) and Southwark (£1,502) is tiny; on our map, it’s exaggerated slightly by where we happened to put the boundary between colour groups. Them’s the breaks.)

But anyway, the key lesson here is that rents in London are really, really expensive. The average rent in England in 2013-14 stood at £720 a month. The same figure in London was more than twice as high, at £1,461.

In even the cheapest borough, Barking & Dagenham, average rents stood at £864, well over the England-wide average. In the most expensive – Westminster (£2,328) and Kensington & Chelsea (£2,767) – they were well over three times that level.

But that’s fine, because rich, spoilt Londoners can afford them, right? Well, yes and no.

This map uses another set of data from the Home Truths report to compare average rents with average incomes.

Click to expand.

And suddenly, it’s a whole new pattern. Some boroughs (Islington, Wandsworth, Tower Hamlets) suddenly look relatively cheap – average rents are high, but, thanks to their gentrification over the last couple of decades, so are average wages.

This trend is at its most extreme in the City of London (which hasn’t really gentrified, to be fair). There, as of 2014, the average rent set you back an upsetting £1,958 a month. But this being the City, it also had one of the highest annual wages of basically anywhere (£52,520): to the people who live there, rents are relatively affordable.

In other boroughs, though, this effect is reversed. In Newham the average 2014 rent was “just” £1,034 a month – but average local wages stood at £23,364. That’s well under the London-wide average (£32,838), and meant that the average Newham resident would be spending 53 per cent of their income to rent an average property in the borough.

Most extreme of all is Hackney, where average rents of £1,490 a month and average wages of £30,035 a year meant that it would cost average residents nearly 60 per cent of their pay packet to rent an average home.

Which is just silly. Especially since we haven’t taken account of food or tax or anything like that. In all, the average rent is more than half the average wage in no fewer than nine boroughs.

Now obviously we’re fudging things a bit here. Many households have more than one income (most people won’t pay those rents single-handedly); many properties are cheaper than the average; and anyway, people can move to cheaper boroughs. The data here has its limits.

But it shows, nonetheless, that certain parts of London are becoming increasingly unaffordable to the people who live in them. I hesitate to use the term “social cleansing”, but… well, what would you call it?

If you enjoyed this article, and haven’t entirely lost the will to live, here’s our other article on the Home Truth’s report, looking at house prices in London. (Tl:dr: we’re doomed.)

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