Monthly Archives: March 2013

Kate Allen

A pretty obvious question, you might think. And you’d be right. Yet there’s a surprising amount of uncertainty about the answer.

There are several house price indices which are popularly used in the UK: the Office for National Statistics produces one (previously run by the Department for Communities & Local Government, and hence often called the ONS/DCLG index), as does the Land Registry (the agency which logs all legal sales data). Big mortgage lenders like Halifax and Nationwide produce their own. And then there are those created by independent researchers such as Acadametrics, RICS, Rightmove and Hometrack.

A comparison of these measures shows that there’s quite a bit of variation between them (see below for a brief description of their methodologies). They all closely mapped the UK’s recession-driven price slide in 2008-09, but since then, their findings have become increasingly diverse: Read more

Kate Allen

The British are fond of trotting out the stereotype of their European cousins as apartment-dwelling renters. The comparison is particularly popular when set in contrast with Britons’ traditional “home is my castle” attitude, which supposedly underlies their love of owner-occupation.

But is it actually true? Read more

Kate Allen

What may be the most comprehensive Internet census to date has given a fascinating snapshot of today’s interconnected world. The research was carried out by an anonymous hacker who illegally infiltrated computer networks around the world, and mapped what they found.

There are 1.3 billion IP addresses (individual location identifiers) in use today, of which around 10 per cent are unsecure, the paper estimates. But they are very geographically concentrated; the vast areas of darkness are striking: Read more

Kate Allen

It’s a common cry: “Housing costs are spiralling … we need to build more!” But will building more homes help to reduce the cost of housing?

In actual fact, building more homes seems to be associated with house prices rising. Or perhaps vice versa. Read more

Kate Allen

Britain’s Chancellor has today announced a substantial expansion of the government’s intervention in the housing market. Specifically, he’s going to give government backing to a great deal more mortgage lending. There have already been cries of “Fannie Mae!” as commentators remember the disastrous housing bubble in the US.

But were Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac really responsible for driving up house prices? Hmm, maybe not actually. Read more

Kate Allen

Money doesn’t grow on trees, right? That’s what UK chancellor George Osborne will be sighing as he prepares for tomorrow’s annual Budget, which is expected to be stringent. But actually, some British policy-watchers think they’ve found a way to magic more money out of thin air.

It comes down to the hoary old question of the public finances. Specifically, Britain’s main measure is public sector net debt, which doesn’t match international measures such as those set out in the Maastricht Treaty: “The Maastricht debt is limited to general government whereas in the public sector finances the principal debt measure is that for the public sector,” explains the ONS.

The key difference relates to a set of organisations called “public sector trading bodies“. These are basically organisations with their own ringfenced cashflows, spending plans and budgets. The Export Credits Guarantee Department is one. So are local authority housing departments.

“Internationally the focus is on general government measures of debt and borrowing – not including the borrowing and expenditure of public sector trading bodies,” says Steve Wilcox, a professor at the University of York who’s been on a crusade to publicise this for several years. Read more