Wages left standing as house prices soar
By Plymouth Herald By KEITH ROSSITER Political Reporter @krossiter
Shelter's affordable housing campaign
AVERAGE wages in Plymouth would be more than £45,000 a year if earnings since 1997 had kept pace with property prices, according to a new analysis.
The housing group Shelter says Plymouth incomes would be £21,294 higher, on average, than they are.
Shelter has done the analysis as part of a campaign to highlight how house prices have got out of control.
Alongside a picture of a child’s toy block, the charity asks: “Is this the last house your children will ever own?”
The campaign was backed by Cllr Mark Lowry, Plymouth’s Cabinet member for finance, who has responsibility for housing delivery.
“We have a housing waiting list of more than 10,000 and need to build more affordable homes,” Cllr Lowry said.
The average house price in Plymouth last year was £159,983, more than six times the average wage.
“We need to continue to make the case that if people want their children to own their own homes or to have affordable rent, we need to build more affordable housing,” Cllr Lowry said.
The council’s policy is to prefer building on brownfield sites – land that has been previously developed. With developments like Royal William Yard, Millbay and North Prospect, more than 90per cent of building has been on brownfield land.
“We don’t want to change the nature of Plymouth,” Cllr Lowry said. “We want to protect and enhance our open spaces and parks.
The council has set a target of building 1,000 new homes a year – a target it has been missing by some 350 a year.
Cllr Lowry said that with about 120,000 homes in the city, such a target would not undermine existing property prices.
“We are unlikely to be able to build enough houses to affect prices, and nor do we want to.
“But we would like to see price rises staying in step with wage increases.”
According to Shelter, the average Plymothian who started saving for a deposit at the age of 25 would be 37 before they could buy a house.
To investigate how out of sync house prices have become, the charity looked at wage and house price inflation since 1997 in each area of the country.
This was then used to calculate what average annual earnings would be if they had risen at the same rate as house prices.
Plymouth prices have lagged far behind the South East of England.
In the London borough of Hackney the average annual salary would need to increase by more than £100,000 to be in line with house price rises.
Shelter is calling on the government to address the serious shortage of affordable homes as a matter of urgency.
Cllr Lowry said Plymouth had a high proportion of private rented houses, many of them not fit for purpose.
He said some private rent had negative implications for the city’s carbon footprint, fuel poverty and people’s health.
He said the city had a 5,000 shortfall in the number of student rooms in halls of residence.
Building more dedicated student accommodation would free up houses for family homes and reduce conflict with students, he said.