Page last updated at 14:25 GMT, Saturday, 13 September 2008 15:25 UK

North Devon is 'least affordable'

Ringmore in the South Hams where first time buyers are struggling

North Devon is the least affordable area of the UK to live, according to figures from Halifax Estate Agents.

Homes in the district cost an average of 252,792, more than nine times average earnings.

Seven of the 10 least affordable rural areas of the country, all with average prices at least eight times higher than local pay, are in the South West.

East Devon is second in the table, Kerrier in Cornwall third and North Norfolk fourth.

The report states that East Devon's average house price is nearly 250,000 while the average income is 28,500 and Kerrier's average house price is nearly 210,000 while the average income is 24,000.

The difficulties for home buyers in rural locations are particularly acute among first-time buyers
Suren Thiru, Halifax economist

In South Hams, Devon, only 7% of property purchases are by first time buyers.

The problem is exacerbated by a lack of social housing in rural areas, with this accounting for just 13% of the rural housing stock, compared with 20% in towns and cities.

Suren Thiru, economist at Halifax, said: "Housing in rural areas is less affordable than in urban areas due to a combination of higher average prices and lower average earnings.

"The difficulties in rural locations are particularly acute among first-time buyers and are exacerbated by relatively low levels of social housing provision."

1. North Devon
2. East Devon
3. Kerrier
4. North Norfolk
5. Penwith, Cornwall
6. Teignbridge, Devon
7. North Cornwall
8. Chiltern
9. South Somerset
10. Forest Heath, Suffolk
Source: Halifax Estate Agents

The Department for Communities and Local Government said the Government had already taken steps to help people get onto the housing ladder in rural areas.

A spokesman said the solution lay in increasing the housing stock in the countryside across the UK.

Changes to council tax on second homes, new rules enabling councils to more easily identify sites for new houses to be built, and increasing the number of Community Land Trusts to deliver affordable housing had all helped to ease the strain on first-time buyers in rural areas, the department said.

"The government has committed 8bn for the biggest-ever national affordable housing programme," a spokesman said.

"Additionally, Defra's 3.9bn investment in rural development in England shows that we want to see businesses, jobs and services in the countryside flourish."

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