Homes in the countryside have become increasingly unaffordable for local people over the last ten years leaving many working in rural areas with no hope of getting on the housing ladder, according to research carried out by the National Housing Federation.

The "affordability gap" between wages and house prices over the past decade has widened in every rural district, the research found, with house prices rising at more than three times the rate of local salaries since 1999.

The study looked at the price of an average home in rural areas compared to local wages in both 1999 and 2009. It found that ten years ago the average price of a home in the countryside was £95,073, and the average local salary was £13,505.

Since then the price of a rural home has rocketed to £214,008 – an increase of 125% - whereas local wages have risen just 37% to £18,538, making properties increasingly unaffordable for local workers.

Alnwick in Northumberland, whose castle features in the Harry Potter films, witnessed the biggest change in affordability over the past 10 years with average house prices shooting up from £78,706 to £210,572 – an increase of 170%.

With local incomes rising by only 5% over the same period however, the gap between house prices and local salaries has widened massively and put buying a home beyond the reach of many locals. An average home in Alnwick is now 16.9 times the average local salary of £12,480 – up from 6.6 times local salary in 1999.

Easington, also in the North East, saw the second biggest increase in the affordability gap, with a home now costing 7.3 times the average local salary. In 1999 a home would have cost just 3.2 times the annual income of somebody working in the area.

Fenland in Cambridgeshire, Mid Bedfordshire and Ribble Valley in Lancashire also fared badly in the affordability stakes, with the affordability gap more than doubling since 1999. North East Derbyshire, Derbyshire Dales, Congleton, Forest of Dean and North Lincolnshire made up the top 10 list of areas with worsening affordability.

House prices in the countryside are now up to £40,000 higher than in urban areas, despite average wages being lower. The number of people on waiting lists for affordable homes in rural England has soared to around 750,000.

The Federation, which represents England’s housing associations, estimates around 100,000 new affordable homes need to be built in England alone to meet demand in rural areas over the next 10 years. Rural councils must now draw up action plans to address the housing needs of their communities, the organisation said, and publish an action plan to deal with it.

David Orr, chief executive of the Federation said: "These figures highlight just how difficult it can be for rural inhabitants to afford a home of their own in the current climate.

"With the disparity between income and house prices growing so rapidly, local inhabitants can often feel like they have to win the lottery to be able to buy in their local area.

"Unless affordable homes continue to be built to match demand, this problem will increase further and local people will be priced-out of their communities.

"As a first step we are asking all rural councils to make sure they have a full understanding of housing need in their area and to publish an action plan to deal with this need."



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