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Last Updated: Friday, 28 July 2006, 22:58 GMT 23:58 UK
House price woe for 'key workers'
Front door keys
Affordability remains a major headache for public sector workers
Public sector workers such as police, teachers, nurses and firemen cannot afford to buy property in two-thirds of UK towns, the Halifax bank has said.

Property is most unaffordable for those in London and south-east England.

But rising prices in northern England, the South West, Midlands and Scotland are putting home ownership out of the grasp of such workers, it added.

Halifax arrived at its conclusions by dividing average regional property prices by average annual wages.

Out of 519 towns surveyed by the Halifax, 339 (65%) were deemed unaffordable.

Gerrards Cross, South-East
Weybridge, South-East
Kensington and Chelsea, London
Ascot, South-East
Sevenoaks, South-East
Source: Halifax

In 2001, just under a quarter of towns were unaffordable.

Halifax defined a town as unaffordable if the average price of a house was more than 4.46 times the average wage of the workers. The 4.46 figure is the average income multiple that mortgage providers will lend to UK first-time buyers.

Wages gap

The average property is beyond the reach of police, nurses, teachers, firemen and ambulance staff in all towns in the South-West, compared with 15% five years ago.

I earn pretty much the average graduate wage, but it's nowhere near enough
James Ashwin

Likewise, these workers find themselves priced out of all but a handful of towns in the South-East.

Around 50% more towns are now unaffordable in the East Midlands, East Anglia, Yorkshire and Humber, West Midlands and the North West compared with five years ago.

The biggest gap between average wages of public sector workers - often dubbed key workers - and house prices was in London.

A home in the capital costs on average 11.1 times the annual pay of ambulance staff and 9.5 times a nurse's earnings.

Lochgelly. Scotland
Kelty, Scotland
Nelson, north west
Greenock, Scotland
Ebbw Vale, Wales
Source: Halifax

Gerrards Cross is the least affordable town in UK for key workers, closely followed by Weybridge, Kensington and Chelsea, Ascot, Sevenoaks and Leatherhead.

All in all, 18 of the 20 least affordable towns in the UK were in the south of England.

"Now it is difficult for key workers to buy the average house, not only in the south of England but also in significant parts of the Midlands, northern England, Wales and Scotland," Martin Ellis, Halifax chief economist, said.

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