Houses less affordable, study shows

The number of local authority areas where the average house price is less than three times the average annual salary has fallen from 72 to just one over the past 16 years, according to a new study.

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London is the least affordable part of the country to live in, research showed
The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London is the least affordable part of the country to live in, research showed

Research by the TUC showed that Copeland in the Lake District was the last local authority area left in Britain where average house prices were less than three times the average annual salary

The study showed that in 1997 around in one in five local authority areas had housing regarded as "easily affordable".

Although Copeland was highlighted in the report, the TUC said house prices in neighbouring South Lakeland were now eight times the average local salary, showing that the rest of the Lake District was by "no means" an affordable area to live.

The union organisation said its research showed there were no longer any areas in the South East, South West, London and the East of England where average house prices are less than five times the average wage.

Areas across the country from Rotherham to Norwich are becoming out of reach for local people because of rising house prices and low wage growth, said the TUC.

In 1997, around one in 10 local authority areas were "out of reach" for housing, with average prices more than five times local salaries, but the number has increased eightfold, said the report.

The top five least affordable areas of the country are in London, with the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea having average house prices more than 30 times the average local salary.

Elmbridge in Surrey is the least affordable area outside London with an affordability ratio of 14.3, said the report.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "London always comes out top when it comes to horror stories about ludicrously over-priced housing.

"But the toxic combination of rising property prices and falling real wages has meant that local housing affordability remains a huge problem for millions of people across the country.

"Houses and flats in traditionally affordable areas of the country - from Kirklees to Great Yarmouth and Plymouth to Oldham - are now out of reach for many local people.

"We need an ambitious programme of home-building to get house prices back under control.

"At the same time, the growing number of people who have no hope or desire to buy a property any time soon but are still being clobbered by soaring rents need a better deal too.

"But housing affordability isn't just about house prices, decent wages are just as important and there is a lot of ground to make up before we return to the kind of salaries that people were earning before the crash."

Gill Payne, director of policy and external affairs at the National Housing Federation, commented: "This analysis shows how it's not just London that is feeling the crippling effects of the housing crisis, with costs spiralling well beyond the reach of local people.

"As our new research shows, eight in 10 parents are worried about how rising house prices will affect the next generation and don't believe that the mainstream political parties are effectively dealing with the issue of housing.

"With so many now locked out of home ownership and struggling with rents, we need action to be taken to end the housing crisis within a generation to ensure the situation doesn't continue to worsen, leaving our children to deal with the consequences."

A Communities and Local Government spokesman said: "This Government is committed to delivering long-term economic stability and economic growth.

"The last administration oversaw a housing boom and bust, and we have been picking up the pieces.

"House building is now at its highest level since 2007 and continuing to grow, 200,000 new affordable homes have been delivered across England since 2010 and we are helping hard-working people purchase properties with smaller deposits through Help to Buy."

"By tackling the deficit left by the last administration, we are helping keep down both interest rates and the number of repossessions.

"The housing market has turned the corner, but mortgage lending activity in the housing market and loan-to-value ratios on new mortgage lending remain below their historic averages.

"Relative to earnings, median house prices across England are around the same level they were in 2005."