Car Dependence and Housing Affordability: An Emerging Social Deprivation Issue in London?

Blog by Mengqiu Cao and Robin Hickman

15 Aug 2017, 3:48 p.m.
Mengqiu Cao and Robin Hickman



Conventionally, the focus for analysis on social equity has been on examining different dimensions of deprivation, including income, health and employment. This paper investigates the combined problem of high car dependence and housing affordability – as a newly emerging social deprivation issue in London.


Look at all of the political parties in the recent General Election in the UK – and none of them had a serious response to this problem. A composite car dependence and housing affordability (CDHA) index is developed, combining indices of oil vulnerability related to car travel and housing affordability. Greater London is used as the case study, with 2001 and 2011 data analysed at the level of Lower Super Output Areas. The findings reveal that there are high levels of composite car dependence and housing price vulnerability in many suburban areas across Greater London, adding to the previous areas of social deprivation found mainly in East London.


In combination, high car dependence and high housing unaffordability may result in problems for many household budgets in future years. What we are particularly interested in is to investigate the interlinked problems of high car dependence and housing affordability, in view of likely continued volatility in oil prices (and hence higher petrol and diesel prices) and rising house prices. London lends itself to the analysis given the rapid changes occurring in the research timeframe.


There are three key objectives to the research: 1) to analyse the change in relative car dependence and housing affordability between 2001 and 2011; 2) to investigate which parts of London are more vulnerable to the combined problem; 3) to compare how the composite car dependence and housing affordability index relates to the conventional social deprivation issue spatially.


The analysis shows that spatial inequality in London worsened significantly between 2001 and 2011. The Outer London suburbs are, in particular, a major problem for composite car dependence and housing affordability. If oil prices and/or housing costs rise (including mortgage lending and rents) then it can be assumed that large parts of Greater London will become highly vulnerable – limited household budgets will not have sufficient flexibility to allow for rising travel and/or housing costs. The so-called ‘just-about-managing-households’ (JAMs) will become very problematic and more widespread.


If these types of indicators, and others of a similar nature, are used to help frame and monitor the impacts of transport and housing policy, then perhaps a suitable policy response can be developed to help reduce levels of car dependence and housing affordability vulnerability. An important issue for the next Mayoral Election – it should be!


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