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Last Updated: Monday, 19 May, 2003, 11:58 GMT 12:58 UK
Housing crisis 'across South'
A couple browse for a house
Many can only dream of buying
First-time buyers find it harder to get a foot on the property ladder in the South West than any other English region outside London, research suggests.

Experts said the study showed problems faced by many public sector and low-paid workers in buying their first home was affecting swathes of the south of England - not just London.

Low pay rates can put home ownership beyond the reach of younger households - even though house prices in the South West are below those in London and the South East.

In particular, homes in Purbeck, East Dorset and North Cornwall demand almost as big a share of the typical pay packet for local workers under 40 as higher priced homes in the London boroughs of Westminster, Camden and Islington, the research found.

Meanwhile the latest house price survey from property website Rightmove indicated the market had picked up since the end of the war in Iraq.

The study found that prices rose by 1.3% during the past month, following slight price decreases earlier this year.

Local pay

The study for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation compares local pay with local house prices whereas most affordability studies compare national pay with local house prices.

According to the research, there are 33 local authorities where a small home costs more than five times the average annual income of local working households with earners in their 20s or 30s.

In 19 areas, fewer than one in five young working couples could afford to buy a home.

The analysis challenges any assumption that the crisis is confined to London and the South East
Professor Wilcox

While first-time buyers in the South West are struggling, London still tops the overall league of least affordable areas.

The foundation said there were more than 40 districts in and around London where a key worker couple would find it hard to afford a home.

Professor Steve Wilcox, author of the report, said the research showed how difficult it was for young people to get on the housing ladder, particularly public sector workers.

"These figures provide startling evidence of how the housing affordability crisis is affecting large swathes of southern England.

"The analysis challenges any assumption that the crisis is confined to London and the South East.

"When local incomes are part of the calculation, and we focus on the price of starter homes, it is clear that young working people in many south-western districts, from Cornwall to Dorset, face severe difficulties finding even a small home they can afford."

'Springtime surge'

There was more bad news for first-time buyers from property website Rightmove after its latest survey found house prices picking up again.

Rightmove - which measures the asking prices of properties when they go on the market - found that prices rose 1.3% from mid-April to mid-May as the end of the war in Iraq lifted confidence.

Prices have now risen by 4.7% over the first five months of the year, equivalent to an annual rise of 11.6%. This is still much lower than last year's rise of more than 25%.

Like most of the recent property surveys, Rightmove found prices rising more strongly in the North of England.

Values climbed by 4.4% in the North, 3.6% in the North West and by 3.3% in Yorkshire, but fell by 1% in the Greater London area.

"The springtime surge in home buying has been late this year as people had their minds elsewhere," said Ed Williams, managing director of Rightmove.

"Now our agents are starting to see more activity and more transactions are being done."

Most costly places for young buyers in England
Highest house price to income ratios
Authority Region 4/5 room property (2002) Working household incomes House rprice to income ratio
1.Westminster London 448,382 56,625 7.92
2. Camden London 439,968 62,061 7.09
3. Islington London 329,198 47,360 6.95
4. Kensington & Chelsea London 617.433 98,553 6.26
5. Hackney London 203,570 34,902 5.83
6. Purbeck South West 151,386 27,154 5.58
7. Richmond Upon Thames London 303,997 54,716 5.56
8. Ealing London 233,428 42,587 5.48
9. Haringey London 207,884 38,153 5.45
10. East Dorset South West 176,639 32,440 5.45
11. Hillingdon London 193,556 35,681 5.42
12.Harrow London 205,974 38,437 5.36
13. Epsom & Ewell South East 203,895 38,177 5.34
14. Three Rivers East 205,715 38,861 5.29
15. Tower Hamlets London 233,415 44,260 5.27
Source: Joseph Rowntree Foundation




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's George Eykyn
"The problems facing first-time buyers are no longer confined to London and the South East"



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