Woe for first time buyers in Southwold

OFFICIAL new figures have revealed just how difficult it is for young people to take the first step on the housing ladder in north Suffolk's most sought-after locations.

By David Lennard

OFFICIAL new figures have revealed just how difficult it is for young people to take the first step on the housing ladder in north Suffolk's most sought-after locations.

Government figures compiled for the census reveal that the average price of a terraced property in Waveney in 2001 – the latest date for which official figures are available – was £53,299.

However, in Halesworth the average price of a terraced home jumps to £70,767 and in Southwold it is a staggering £170,428.

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Council leaders in the Southwold area are aware of the problem but there is little they can do about it.

Southwold mayor John Miller said: "The lack of affordable housing for young people in the Southwold area is a problem that the town council has been aware of for some time.

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"We would all like to see our young people remain in the area but there are problems over financing a suitable development and, even more difficult, is finding a suitable location for the new homes in Southwold."

Much of Southwold is a conservation area where any new building works would be restricted and the open spaces around the seaside town are part of Suffolk's renowned Heritage Coast.

"We know all the shops and businesses are in Southwold but realistically we are looking at having to provide affordable housing outside the boundary of the town.

"There is more likely to be land where new homes could be built in areas such as Reydon rather than in Southwold itself," said Mr Miller.

The shortage of housing in Southwold is one of the reasons for such high property prices but there is a constant demand for homes in the town for people looking to retire or purchase a second home.

Cheryl Chatfield, of Southwold estate agents Jennie Jones, said the demand for homes in Southwold is always there no matter what the state of the property market.

"Southwold has been a popular location for people seeking homes for many years and that does not change with movements in the general property market.

"In fact there are never enough homes on the market to satisfy the demand," she said.

A number of people looking to move to the area have given up the hope of living in Southwold and have looked to live in nearby Halesworth and surrounding villages.

"This in turn has seen property prices rise in the areas close to Southwold.

"However, we still have many people on our mailing list who want to wait for property in Southwold itself and will not consider anything else," said Ms Chatfield.

With the demand for homes in Southwold as strong as ever it is unlikely that many young people looking to start a family will be able to afford to live in the town.

"In some ways the type of terraced houses that come on the market are not suitable for young families," said Mr Miller.

"People with young families want homes with a garden and space to grow while the small former fishermen's cottages have relatively small courtyards and are seen as more suitable for older people because of their low maintenance," said Mr Miller.

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