Concern voiced over house prices

HOUSING chiefs have spoken of their concern for the region's first-time buyers after it emerged that the average price of a house in Suffolk is almost nine times the average income.

HOUSING chiefs have spoken of their concern for the region's first-time buyers after it emerged that the average price of a house in Suffolk is almost nine times the average income.

As the county's housing crisis deepens, the gulf between house prices and average earnings continues to increase, leaving many unable to afford a home of their own.

Statistics released by the National Housing Federation show the average house price in the county in 2004 was £171,413, while the average income of Suffolk residents was only £19,554.

This means a gross income of £46,526 would be needed for a mortgage, leaving individuals with a shortfall of £27,000 annually to buy a house, and the situation is believed to have worsened over the past year.

Even a dual income would still leave many couples and families unable to get on the property ladder, at a time when the region has the fastest rising population in the country.

Between 1999 and 2004, average house prices in the east of England almost doubled from £95,700 to £190,012, an increase of 99%, while average incomes rose by only 15% during the same period.

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David Bogle, chairman of the National Housing Federation East Region, said the situation could have serious consequences for younger generations of Suffolk residents and their ability to live and work in their home county.

He said: “The situation used to be that local authorities provided housing for people with low incomes say, under £15,000, but now there is a growing band of people who are earning say between £15,000 and £20,000 who are not traditionally the people who such housing was aimed at, and because of the increase in house prices and the lack of increase in income they are excluded from the housing market.

“They seem to be chiefly younger people and key workers and there is consequently a need for affordable housing for this section of society.

“This is why the federation supports the need for more housing, currently proposed in the East of England Plan, under which up to 14% would be affordable, to stop these people - our children and the younger generations - from being forced to move away form the areas they were born and brought up in and commute to their places of work.”

Steve Cook, chief executive of the west Suffolk-based Havebury Housing Partnership, which has noticed a massive increase in interest in affordable housing, said: “What we have seen over the last few years has been spiralling house prices, the unavailability of affordable housing to rent or buy and full ownership dwindling because the increase in incomes have not matched the increase in house prices.

“As a result the gap in this equation is widening and taking the opportunity away from many people to get a first foot on the property ownership ladder.”

However, Mr Cook said there were grounds for optimism as a partnership had been formed by housing associations which had just received £4.4 million in Government funding towards a £20 million plan to build 221 affordable homes in the region.

He said: “There is a whole group of housing associations who are planning to do something across the region and I am optimistic as the government does seem to be playing its part in putting resources into affordable housing.”

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