5:00am Monday 24th March 2014
By Joanna Davis
LOCAL workers are being priced out of the market as the cost of buying and renting homes in Dorset soars, a report warns.
A National Housing Federation (NHF) report, out today, says the gap between the amount people take home in their pay packets and the cost of the average home is growing wider every year.
In West Dorset, the cost of the average home is 14 times the cost of the average salary, while in Weymouth and Portland the average home costs 11 times the average local wage.
The average salary in Dorset is now only £19,219 while the average home costs £254,891 – 13 times the average wage.
Weymouth resident Rachel Chamberlain, 28, has moved back into her family home to save up money to buy her own house.
She was offered a £55,000 mortgage by her bank based on her earnings as a florist.
She said: “That amount is enough to get me a mobile home or a beach hut on Portland.
“I just don’t see a way onto the property ladder as prices start to rise.
“I live in Rodwell and there are so many houses around here that are second homes. They’re all empty during the week.
“I think the number of second homes in this area should be cracked down upon because it’s pushing prices up.”
The NHF report, Home Truths 2013/14, warns that while West Dorset wages rose by 29 per cent between 2002 and 2012, house prices rose by 58 per cent and the cost of renting rose by 33 per cent.
In Weymouth and Portland, salaries went up by 40 per cent during the same decade, while house prices went up by 60 per cent and the cost of renting rose by 36 per cent.
Private rent rises are expected to increase by 46 per cent between 2013 and 2021 in West Dorset and by 47 per cent in Weymouth and Portland between 2013 and 2021.
One woman, who didn’t wished to be named, told the Echo she had left Weymouth after 19 years because prices had become too high.
The 60-year-old moved away late last year after the rent on her three-bedroom home rose to £750 a month. She now pays £550 a month for a house of the same size in the East Midlands.
Sean Austin, director of Weymouth estate agents Austin Property Services, said property prices in this area are now nearly as high as in 2006 when the property market was at a peak.
He said: “The fact remains that Dorset is one of the most popular places to live in the UK and there is high demand for property, especially in Weymouth, Portland and Dorchester where the majority of our property sales are generated.
“I feel to support the need for housing and to aid first-time buyers in getting on the property ladder, the government and housing associations should start introducing more shared ownership facilities which would help and support everyone in Dorset.”
Polly Greenway, director of Dorset estate agents Domvs, said mid-range development land for building five to 30 homes was in short supply.
She added: “This is exacerbated by the lack of funding available to developers, the lack of land allocation and cost of punitive community infrastructure levy by the local authorities, and the expectations of land owners – thereby having an inevitable effect on affordable house prices.
“In a nutshell, we need more housing to be built to balance supply and demand, thereby increasing chances for people to live locally, maintaining a skilled workforce and ensuring a viable local economy.”
CLLR Gill Taylor, of Weymouth and Portland Borough Council, said there was no ‘quick fix’ for solving the gulf between wages and house prices.
She said: “We live in a lovely area to which many people aspire to retire with the knock-on effects on the market.
“But I think we should be looking at supporting the private rental market – private landlords will not take people on benefits.
“WPBC needs to step in here and consider operating as a Social Letting Agency as many councils already have done.”
She added that she had concerns about the Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), which received government funding, and said she thought its plans were very enterprise and business orientated.
Dorchester councillor Robin Potter, of West Dorset District Council, said the combination of low average wages and high housing costs is ‘of great concern for the future of West Dorset’ and risks driving young people out of the area.
He added: “Helping developers to deliver the correct mix of housing for a wide range of clients will be key to the prospects of existing and future residents.”
JENNY Allen, south west external affairs manager for the NHF, said high house prices, rising rents and low and stagnant wages were making life ‘extremely difficult’ for people living and working in this area.
She added: “They are also affecting employers and businesses and risk holding back economic growth.
“We need Local Enterprise Partnerships to work with local councils, housing association and others to take a strategic lead on getting more homes built at the right price in the right places.”
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