The difference a decade can make

March 2021

The role data plays in our lives often feels like a modern-day occurrence, but the reality is we’ve been collecting it for hundreds of years.  The UK’s first census was held in 1801 and has been held once a decade ever since (bar a break in 1941 when the country was at war). 

Not only does the census provide a snapshot of how we live our lives – and how this has changed over time – but importantly, it enables the government to plan and implement policy for the years ahead.

The most recent census was held on Sunday 22 March, but the census before, took place in 2011, following months of recession.  The ramifications of the banking crisis of 2008, when house prices fell like a stone, was still being felt some three years later when the market had just about bottomed out.

Ten years on and there are distinct similarities to where we find ourselves today.  Gripped by a global pandemic and mounting sovereign debt, the country finds itself in recession once more.  However this time, there is a notable difference - in a quest for space and a more balanced lifestyle, the housing market has been booming and prices rising. 

In effect, this means the two most recent censuses mark the bottom and the top of the market.  And we can see this in the figures.  Between 2011 and 2021 houses prices rose 50% across Great Britain.  This equates to a total of £83,000 or average annual growth of 4.1% per year.

Seven of the ten local authorities where prices have grown the most are in London.  And of these, three – Waltham Forest (120%), Hackney (111%) and Lewisham (101%) - have seen prices double over the last decade. Corby, Bristol and Basildon also ranked in the top 10 with prices increasing by 82%, 80% and 79% respectively.

But there have been areas where prices haven’t moved at all.  Inverclyde, West of Glasgow and Hartlepool in the North East are good examples of this, while Aberdeen –  hit hard by falling oil prices and subsequent job losses – has seen prices drop back by 10% over the last 10 years. 

Across the country, the average house price in Great Britain has gone up from £168,200 in 2011 to £251,500 in 2021.  Not surprising therefore to see that affordability has been stretched from 6.5 times gross full-time earnings a decade ago, to 8.2 times today. 

With the price of an average home costing £1,288,640 in 2021, Kensington & Chelsea remains the least affordable place in the country to live.  Here prices are 28.8 times that of earnings.  A decade ago a home in the same London borough would have set you back £884,670, 18.5 times the average salary needed to buy it.

In contrast, Burnley in Lancashire, East Ayrshire in Scotland and Copeland in Cumbria are the most affordable places in the country to live.