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Forced out by house prices
Published 08/10/12

YOUNG people in and around Henley are being driven out of the area by spiralling house prices and low salaries.

The average cost of buying a home in South Oxfordshire has risen by 76 per cent in the last decade.

Figures released by the National Housing Federation show that the average price has gone up from 198,527 in 2001 to 348,583 last year.

As a result, the average deposit required for first-time buyers to secure a home has jumped 339 per cent from 19,853 to 87,146. However, the average salary has risen by only 13 per cent from 17,560 to 19,791.

Henley town councillor Kellie Gehrmann, 27, is one of many young people affected by the increasing cost of buying a home.

She said: “House prices in Henley are something that has concerned me since moving out of my parental home and in particular since having a baby.

“My partner and I currently rent privately but would much rather be paying towards a mortgage and own our own home.

“To have any chance of doing this we would have to move out of Henley — something which neither of us would like as our families have been settled in the town for generations.”

Cllr Gehrmann said more social housing was needed as the national average age for a first-time buyer without parental assistance was now 37.

“These rising house prices are forcing young people to live with their parents for as long as possible,” she said.

“They are driving the people that have been born and raised in Henley out of the town.

“We are lucky to be close to the capital and have commuters living in the town but do we really want a town that is mainly populated by people that work and socialise elsewhere? As it stands, 40 per cent of any major new development must comprise affordable homes.

“The young people of Henley desperately need this to remain in place and not be sacrificed in order to attract developers.”

Councillor Will Hall, who represents Henley South on South Oxfordshire District Council, said: “The increase in house prices means that young people who were brought up in South Oxfordshire find it extremely difficult to stay in the area.

“I’m extremely happy that the district council strongly prioritises affordable housing because without this provision many young people will be driven away from their local area by simply not being able to afford the first rung on the housing ladder.

“It’s a huge shame that for many young people a deposit is just not affordable.”

In Wargrave, which comes under the umbrella of Wokingham Borough Council, the average house price has risen 65 per cent from 198,049 in 2001 to 326,337 last year.

The average deposit has gone up 312 per cent from 19,805 to 81,584 but the average salary has risen by 16 per cent from 22,183 to 25,792.

Chez Payne-Annetts, 36, rents a property in order to stay in the village where she was born and bred.

The charity worker moved into Kings Acre, Wokingham Borough Council’s first rural exception housing scheme, in March last year.

Ten affordable new homes were built on the site off Blakes Road to help local people remain in the area.The 1million development, built by Sovereign South and West, consists of seven houses and apartments to rent and three to part-buy.

Mrs Payne-Annetts, a Wargrave parish councillor, said: “Kings Acre has made a huge difference to the 10 families who live here and otherwise would have had to move out of the village.

“Housing associations like Sovereign are keen to build more rural sites in other villages but often meet much opposition yet, if they are agreed, the benefits to local people are for life.”

Speaking to BBC Berkshire, Mrs Payne-Annetts said: “I do not feel anyone has a particular right to live somewhere but I was born here, I grew up here and I want my children to go to the schools I went to.

“Villages are dying. Young families need to stay in the villages because they are the lifeblood. It is an ageing community and the village ethos that we have in this country will die, which is a really sad thing.”

David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said: “These shocking figures show that it is getting increasingly hard for millions of people to buy a home of their own in the current climate.

“With the gap between income and house prices growing ever wider, people can often feel like they have to win the Lottery to be able to buy in their local area.

“A shortage of homes means the price to buy them is being pushed ever higher by the market and out of reach of millions of hard-working families. Unless we start building more homes so people can truly afford to match the demand, this will only get worse.”

A spokesman for South Oxfordshire District Council, said: “This is an issue affecting first-time buyers in South Oxfordshire as much as anywhere else.

“It highlights the acute need for additional housing which we are currently seeking to allocate across the district.”

The council has allocated 5,214 new homes to be built in the district by 2026, including up to 450 in Henley.

The council operates a Home Buy scheme for first-time buyers. This is a government initiative funded by the council in partnership with Catalyst Housing which provides equity loans to help eligible people who would otherwise be unable to buy a home.

Another low cost home ownership option is Shared Ownership — part buy, part rent, which is offered by housing associations on new developments.

Published 08/10/12

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