Currently, 38% of towns are affordable for key workers compared to just 3% in 2007: a fourteen fold increase. However, house prices in three out of five towns (62%) are still beyond the reach of key workers on an average salary.
Overall, employees in each of the five key worker groups – nurses, teachers, police officers, fire fighters and paramedics – have seen the number of towns with affordable houses for them improve since 2007. Firemen have seen the biggest change with an increase in affordable towns from just 1% in 2007 to 28% now. Nurses have also seen a marked improvement; from 7% of towns being affordable for them in 2007 to 22% in 2011.
Nelson is the most affordable town for key workers with a house price to average key worker earnings ratio of 2.1; the Lancashire town is followed by Lochgelly in Fife (2.4) and Bootle in Merseyside (2.5). Unsurprisingly, the least affordable areas for key workers are all in London: Kensington and Chelsea (16.5), Westminster (13.6) and Camden (12.4).
However, recent improvements mask the deterioration of housing affordability for key workers when compared to a decade ago. Almost two-thirds (64%) of towns were affordable in 2001 compared to 38% in 2011. During this period, nurses have fared the worst; in 2001 over half (55%) of towns were affordable to nurses compared to one in five (22%) today.
Nitesh Patel, housing economist at Halifax, commented:
"Housing has become more affordable for key public sector workers across the country since house prices peaked in 2007. This is due to lower house prices combined with increased earnings.
Over a longer period, the number of affordable towns in 2011 remains significantly lower than a decade ago. In 2001, two-thirds of towns were affordable compared to just a third today. Government schemes to assist low-cost home ownership are welcome, although it remains to be seen how big the impact on key workers will be."
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