Union's 'affordable housing' plea

Average house prices in parts of London have soared to more than 20 times workers' wages, highlighting the housing "crisis" gripping the country, according to a new report.

The GMB says workers are priced out of buying or renting a house
The GMB says workers are priced out of buying or renting a house.

A study for the GMB union found the average price of a house in Britain is around six times the average pay of full-time workers.

But the figure is 13 times for London and more than 20 times the average wages of workers in some of the capital's boroughs, including Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea.

Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB told the union's annual congress in Nottingham: "These figures show that GMB members are priced out of the owner occupied housing market in vast areas of Britain. They need houses for rent.

"Using expensive private sector landlords funded by taxpayers to provide these houses for rent needs to be phased out.

"The country needs a target for new build homes of 250,000 per year plus a minimum of 30,000 empty homes brought back into use.

"At least 80,000 of the target need to be in the social housing sector. This cannot be done without a major programme of council house building.

"An incoming Labour government will need to make affordable housing a central part of its economic and social strategy.

"Some of the strategic and institutional changes will take time to put into full effect but the intention needs to be clear from the start with an immediate emergency programme and legislative action from the first session of the new Parliament."

The union's study showed that the average house price in England and Wales was £172,000, compared with median pay of £27,000.

The ratio of wages to house prices ranged from 4.1 in the North East, 4.4 in in the North West and 4.8 in Wales and Yorkshire and the Humber, to 7.6 in the South East and 13.3 in London.

A special report by the union's executive called on an incoming Labour government to make affordable housing a central part of its economic and social strategy.

The conference debated calls for the compulsory acquisition of empty homes and regulation of the private renting sector.

Millions of people find their rent or mortgage a constant struggle or are falling behind with their payments, the union believes.

The report by the GMB executive said for the last 30 years the number of new households needing accommodation has been growing at nearly twice the rate of new dwellings becoming available.

Housing Minister Kris Hopkins said: "We're pulling out all the stops to get Britain building and ensure home ownership is affordable.

"That's why since 2010 we've delivered 170,000 new affordable homes, with plans for another 165,000 in the three years from 2015, and we've invested more than £200 million to bring the number of empty properties in England down by a fifth, resulting in a 10-year low.

"It's also why we've introduced the Help to Buy, which enables people to buy a home with a fraction of the deposit they would normally require.

"Leading developers have said they'll build more as a direct result of the scheme, and housebuilding is now up a third and at its highest level since 2007."