SERIOUS concerns over the affordability of housing in Bradford emerged today following the release of research which reveals a widening gap between property prices and earnings in the city.
The TUC's report shows that in 1997 the city's average house cost a fraction less than three times the average wage in the area.
But despite the recession dampening prices, the gap has grown wider with buyers now needing to spend 4.79 times the average annual wage to buy a typical home in the city.
Under the TUC's calculations homes are easily affordable if they cost less than three times average annual earnings.
Because the Bradford figure has shot substantially ahead of that threshold they say affordability will be a serious issue for many residents.
Warnings raised in the TUC survey have already been seen in Bradford's housing market. First time buyers have been hit by a 'Catch 22' of being unable save for a deposit while paying rent, said Richard Bairstow, partner in the city's O'Hearne and Partners estate agency.
"Almost everything we used to sell to first time buyers over five or six years has been sold to investors," he said.
"We are struggling to get mortgages for first time buyers. Investors don't have a lot of problem getting finance. That has kept the market ticking over."
It was unlikely to improve for prospective buyers unless property price rises paused until wages could catch up, he added.
Bank of England guidelines are now that mortgages should be limited to 4.5 times annual earnings, meaning in average terms a gap already exists between incomes and property prices which buyers will have to bridge with cash deposits.
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Bradford Council is aware of the increasing problem of affordability of both ownership and rentals for properties in the city and has been working for some time to create more 'affordable homes' where rental costs and price increases can be controlled.
Gill Payne, director of policy and external affairs at the National Housing Federation, the body which represents housing associations, said: “This analysis shows how it’s not just London that is feeling the crippling effects of the housing crisis with costs spiralling well beyond the reach of local people.
“As our new research out today shows, eight in ten parents are worried about how rising house prices will affect the next generation and don’t believe that the mainstream political parties are effectively dealing with the issue of housing.
"With so many now locked out of home ownership and struggling with rents, we need action to be taken to end the housing crisis within a generation to ensure the situation doesn’t continue to worsen leaving our children to deal with the consequences.”
TUC regional secretary Bill Adams said: “Yorkshire has always had its blackspots in terms of housing affordability, but by and large houses and flats in most parts of the region were within reach of local people.
“Over the last 16 years, house price rises have outstripped peoples’ pay packets and left huge swathes of the region unaffordable.
“We need to build more homes to get house prices back under control. With interest rates low, now is the perfect time for an ambitious programme of home-building, which would also help tackle local unemployment problems."
He also called for a better deal to protect renters.