Council aims to increase first-time buyers’ chances

AVERAGE house prices in Huntingdonshire have almost doubled in seven years but, with earnings failing to keep pace, it has become more difficult for people to join the property ladder. The district council s housing strategy for the next five years, which

AVERAGE house prices in Huntingdonshire have almost doubled in seven years but, with earnings failing to keep pace, it has become more difficult for people to join the property ladder.

The district council's housing strategy for the next five years, which is expected to be endorsed by the cabinet tomorrow (Thursday), says the average price in the first quarter of 1999 was £92,300. By the equivalent period of 2006 that figure had risen to £174,151 - an increase of 88 per cent.

More than three-quarters of homes in the district are owner-occupied, with 11 per cent private rented and 13 per cent let by housing associations.

"There is a growing affordability gap because house prices have continued to rise at a rate that far outstrips earnings and the capacity of aspiring new owners to borrow," the strategy says.


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"The earnings of younger, middle-income employees - aspiring first-time buyers - are not keeping pace with the rise in house prices. Lower-end earnings appear to be growing only very slowly and the pool of existing entry-level housing is drying up and not being built in sufficient quantity."

The council blames this partly on the tenants' right to buy scheme, which removes social rented homes from the social rented market more quickly than they can be replaced by new homes.

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At present, HDC's policy is that 29 per cent of large housing developments should be available for "affordable" housing. With 11,200 new homes forecast for Huntingdonshire between 2001 and 2021 - an average of 559 new dwellings a year - the council wants that proportion to increase to 40 per cent.

It has identified a need for 585 new social rented homes a year and a further section of the population who, while not in housing need and can afford private rents, still cannot afford owner occupation.

In some cases, they can be helped into the property market through shared equity schemes under which they buy a proportion of their home and pay rent on the rest until their finances improve sufficiently for them to buy it.

There are nearly 3,000 households on the council's housing registers.

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