More towns affordable for first-time buyers

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The share of UK towns and cities that are affordable to first-time buyers is at its highest in a decade due to the sluggish housing market.

Those taking their first step on the property ladder will find homes within their means in 54 per cent of local authority districts, the highest proportion since 2002 when 64 per cent of districts were within buyers’ reach, Halifax found.

This is up from 40 per cent a year ago and almost eight times the proportion of affordable districts at the peak of the housing market in 2007, when only seven per cent were in this bracket. A widening North-South divide was highlighted, with London being the only region where there were no affordable areas found for would-be buyers on average earnings. By contrast, 100 per cent of districts in the North East were within buyers’ grasp.

Only nine per cent of the affordable districts are in the South East, the South West or the East of England, compared with 15 per cent 10 years ago.

This means 91 per cent of the affordable districts are in Yorkshire and the Humber, the North East, North West, East Midlands, West Midlands, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, up from 85 per cent in 2002.

House prices have been holding up in London, which has had strong interest from overseas buyers, as well as some commuter belt areas, compared with the patchier market in the rest of the UK.

House prices in Northern Ireland have fallen by around 10 per cent over the last year.

Brent in London was named the least affordable district in the UK, where homes cost 8.8 times average earnings, while South Ayrshire in Scotland is the most affordable, with average property prices at just 2.5 times the local annual wage.

Districts were deemed “affordable” if the average house price for a first-time buyer there was lower than what someone on typical earnings living there could pay.