'It is crazy just how much we have to pay for a home': Soaring cost of property putting huge financial strain on Yorkshire house hunters

The soaring cost of property has placed a huge financial strain on anyone hoping to own their own home. Paul Jeeves reports.

Cat Conolly with her parents
Cat Conolly with her parents

Since the late 19th century, the Holgate district of York has been indelibly linked to the city’s proud history of the railways.

With North Eastern Railway’s decision in 1880 to locate its carriage building works in the area, Holgate became a centre for the hundreds of railway workers who helped drive forward the historic city’s economy.

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And nearly 150 years on, the York suburb is an equally important place for Cat Conolly and her partner, Andy, but for very personal reasons.

The couple are in the process of buying their first home together, a three-bedroom semi-detached house dating from the 1930s, which will mark the end of an emotional journey stretching back more than three years.

To realise their dream of owning a home, they moved in with Miss Conolly’s parents, Heather and Tim Conolly, in Riccall, near Selby, and have managed to clear personal debts and save up £25,000 for a deposit.

The huge demand in the property market meant that Miss Conolly viewed their new £250,000 home in January and made an offer the following day - even before her 44-year-old partner, who works as a creative technologist developing interactive displays for museums and heritage sites, had seen the property himself.

Miss Conolly, 30, who works in marketing and communications, said: “We have been lucky as we have been able to move in with my parents, which is an option that we know isn’t available to most people.

“They have been brilliant and without them we would have not had any hope of trying to get on the property ladder, but three years is a long time and it has been a big commitment to try and put the money away to save up for a deposit.

“It has been stressful at times and it is crazy just how much money we are looking to have to pay for a home - it is the biggest purchase that I will ever make.

“But it is so abstract as far as the figure is concerned, and this is obviously what you have to do to have the chance of owning your own home.

“We are still waiting to complete the sale, as the vendors have had issues with the property that they are moving in to. But I am hopeful that we will be able to complete the sale soon, and it will be such a relief to step through the front door for the first time knowing the house is actually our own.”

York itself lies within the so-called golden triangle of property, which also includes north Leeds and Harrogate, and property prices in the ancient city have risen dramatically in recent years.

The latest figures from the National Housing Federation have revealed that the average cost of a home in York is now £279.823, although the average wage for workers in the city are £31,829, way below the income of £63,962 which would be needed for an 80 per cent mortgage.

The federation’s head of policy, Will Jeffwitz, inset, said that pressures across the property market are being felt by all sections of society, and not just first-time buyers who have traditionally struggled the most to purchase a home of their own.

He said: “There are people who are feeling the challenges of buying a home across the whole market, which is being amplified with the demand for property at the moment.

“Our research has shown that four million new homes are needed to be built in the next decade to address the shortfall in housing,

“But it is not simply about building new homes, as regeneration of existing empty properties is key too. This would help with the Government’s levelling up agenda, and provide real opportunities across the North of England.”

One of the biggest challenges in providing affordable housing remains in rural communities, with the acute pressures on villages and hamlets being amplified in the past 15 months.

The coronavirus pandemic has seen many house-hunters turn their focus to the countryside with a desire to buy a property with a garden for a better quality of life and the chance of working from home instead of enduring a daily commute.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park remains one of the nation’s most desirable locations, with second home ownership and holiday lets compounding a lack of affordable homes.

Controversial plans to charge second home owners more in council tax were aborted three years ago, after Richmondshire District Council voted against the idea. The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority had proposed a pilot scheme imposing a five-fold increase in council tax on anyone owning a second home in the area.

The average cost of property in Richmondshire, which includes Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Richmond constituency, is £237,950 while the average wage is £26,884, according to the National Housing Federation.

For Carly Thompson and her partner of 15 years, Pete Akers, their hopes of owning a property in Richmondshire are set to be realised through an affordable housing development in West Witton.

Miss Thompson, 37, who is one of the managers at the Wensleydale Heifer restaurant in West Witton, grew up in the village of Finghall, and had known about the development site for the past 20 years.

But it is only now that the 16-home scheme, half of which is affordable housing, is nearing completion, and she and Mr Akers, 33, have spent the past four years saving up a £20,000 deposit for a three-bedroom property which is being marketed for £213,000.

Miss Thompson, who has been renting a house in West Witton for the past 14 years with her sister, Krissy Thompson, 41, and her partner, Craig Keenan, 40, said: “The demand in the Dales is unreal, and most people living here would not have a hope of owning their own home.

“We have only managed to even consider buying a home as it is an affordable housing scheme, this really is a once in a lifetime opportunity for us as there won’t be anything like this built again in West Witton.

“I grew up in the area and I work here now too, so it is unfair that people who are contributing to the local community and the local economy simply can’t afford their own home. It is heartbreaking to know that is the case for so many people.”