Spiralling house prices

ASTRONOMIC house prices are leaving first-time buyers and low income families struggling to raise nearly ten times the average wage to gain a foot on the property ladder, new figures have revealed.

ASTRONOMIC house prices are leaving first-time buyers and low income families struggling to raise nearly ten times the average wage to gain a foot on the property ladder, new figures have revealed.

Since last year, prices in Bury St Edmunds alone have risen by 24%, with a typical home now costing more than £200,000. Government statistics have shown average gross earnings for workers in the town lie at £21,000.

Addresses in Bury have now become the most exclusive in Suffolk, and are the second-most expensive in East Anglia behind Cambridge.

It is feared that the boom could leave pensioners, young buyers and those on low incomes struggling to afford the home of their choice, draining the county of key workers essential for Suffolk's economy.

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The latest figures released yesterdayby lenders the Halifax, showed prices across the county have increased by 7% since last year, with the average house now costing £159,751.

The picturesque town which is steeped in history, has seen the largest price hike over the last few months, leaving many fearing its incoming population could be limited to only those who command a hefty pay packet.

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"These prices are pushing a whole range of people out of the market – not only first time buyers but also the elderly, who may be looking for a change in accommodation," said Wil Gibson, chief executive of rural charity Suffolk ACRE.

"One of the biggest questions here is concerning supply. Areas like Sudbury and Bury face the same problem as villages – people move here and then commute to London, and of most of the new developments springing up, few could be described as affordable.

"There is the potential for towns to end up like these villages, so we have got to make sure we meet the demands of our communities and provide a good mix of housing. We need to become more sophisticated as to the needs of our population.

"Supply needs to be balanced out, with affordable – as well as social – housing provided across Suffolk, not just in growth areas such as Bury, Sudbury and Ipswich. However, the infrastructure to support such development in some of these places is currently not in place."

St Edmundsbury Borough Council last year unveiled a proposal to build 800 homes between Bury and nearby Westley as part of the authority's ten-year local plan, which will include 40% social housing.

But officials are concerned this may not be enough and say the current infrastructure in place around the town is insufficient to support such growth.

"The gap between the average house price and average earnings is widening, yet a town needs key workers to maintain many of its services," said David Nettleton, who serves the Risbygate Ward.

Meanwhile the proposed expansion of Stansted Airport is causing house prices in Braintree to take off, an estate agent said last night.

According to the Halifax House Price Index, average house prices in Braintree have soared through the £200,000 barrier – 7% up on last year's £187,000 and £4,000 more than the overall Southeast average. The prices represent an eight-times multiple of average Essex earnings of £25,000 a year.

Glenn Krikor, a negotiator at Connells Estate Agents, Braintree, said the new figures surprised him, and admitted: "It's Stansted."

"We've all noticed people looking at the possible new runways there and hoping there's money to be made," he said.

"You've got to remember what a good location Braintree is and with the new A120 road link about to open it's all looking quite pretty."

He said Braintree was becoming more and more a commuter town with prices in Chelmsford moving too far out of reach for a lot of people.

However, the boom in Colchester's property prices has ended according to the Halifax survey. Average prices now stand at £170,394 – a 2% drop on the £173,639 this time last year.

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