Suffolk: Affordable homes still out of reach for key workers

Unaffordable homes

Unaffordable homes - Credit: IAN BURT

HOUSES in Suffolk are still unaffordable for teachers, paramedics, police officers, nurses and firefighters, new figures have revealed.

But research carried out by Halifax shows the ability of key public sector workers to purchase their own home continues to improve in East Anglia and is approaching the level achieved ten years ago before the house price boom.

Union bosses yesterday urged the Government to act to improve wage structures and pensions, while also calling on local authorities to help build more affordable homes.

Tim Roberts, regional organiser for Unison, said a lack of affordable homes was also impacting on hospitals’ ability to recruit staff.

He added: “The reality is for key workers, and public sector workers generally, is that they have had a three year pay freeze, which is having a significant impact on them financially. One of those impacts is an inability to save for a house or be able to save for a mortgage.”

He added: “Unison has always campaigned for more affordable housing generally and believes the Government should invest more in affordable housing but also ensure that public sector workers receive fair pay for their work.”

Mr Roberts said West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds, who recently recruited dozens of nurses in Portugal, had experienced difficulties in attracting British nurses.

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Graham White, secretary of the Suffolk NUT, said: “It does make it much harder to recruit. The whole wage issue needs to be looked at. What has to happen is to tackle the issue of national pay and from a local authority perspective, we have to make sure that the housing offered is affordable.”

The research by Halifax, published today, is based on the benchmark ratio of average house price to average earnings, where housing is considered affordable to buy if the ratio is below 4.01.

In East Anglia the average ratio in 2013 stood at 5.07, down from 6.58 in 2008.

Ipswich has seen a bigger fall from a ratio of 6.4 in 2008 to a still unaffordable 4.8 this year.

In Bury St Edmunds the ratio went from 7.1 in 2008 to 5.8.

Martin Ellis, housing economist at Halifax, said: “Since house prices peaked in 2007, there has been a significant improvement in terms of housing affordability for key public sectors workers.

“While housing is still unaffordable for key workers in more than half of the towns surveyed, in many cases affordability issues are improving. In East Anglia affordability has improved partly as a result of falling house prices, with the average house price in East Anglia currently £162,272.”

The least affordable areas for key workers are all in London, where house prices are significantly higher than the national average. Scotland has the most affordable towns.