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Property still out of buyers' reach

PUBLISHED: 11:59 21 September 2009 | UPDATED: 15:05 03 July 2010

Homes across our region are still beyond the reach of many first-time buyers despite a steep drop in prices from the boom years.

A new report from the National Housing Federation (NHF), which represents 1,300 housing associations, paints a bleak picture of low incomes, poor job security, more repossessions and the continuing mortgage credit crunch keeping the housing market unaffordable and unsustainable.

Homes across our region are still beyond the reach of many first-time buyers despite a steep drop in prices from the boom years.

A new report from the National Housing Federation (NHF), which represents 1,300 housing associations, paints a bleak picture of low incomes, poor job security, more repossessions and the continuing mortgage credit crunch keeping the housing market unaffordable and unsustainable.

Even in Yarmouth, which has the lowest average house price in the region at £145,500, estate agents confirm the same gloomy news.

The report says that despite the market downturn, house prices last year in the East of England still cost about 11 times average incomes.

This is set against the uncomfortable backdrop that one in 16 households in the region are on a social housing waiting list and the number of overcrowded households jumped by 11pc last year, the second highest rise in the country.

Claire Astbury, the NHF's regional manager, said: “We have seen regional house prices in the region fall by 16pc, but the recession and credit crunch have stopped in its track any positive benefit to the housing market.

“With unemployment up by a third, house prices still high by past standards, affordable mortgages hard to come by, private rents 75pc higher than social rents and national repossessions rising, social housing is a great alternative for many people in the East.”

Yarmouth estate agent Charles Bycroft said: “We are running at about two thirds of the level of business we would be doing in a normal time, and about half what we were doing from 2005 to 2007.”

He confirmed house prices had come down noticeably - a similar home to one they had sold recently in Covent Garden Road, Caister, for £138,000 had fetched £164,950 two years ago.

The price of larger properties had dropped even more, with one house that had earlier fetched £400,000 selling for £320,000.

However, he said: “The average first-time buyer in Yarmouth is on a low income and can't afford more than £70,000, so the starting price for a two-up, two-down terrace property of £75,000 to £80,000 is still beyond them.”

Mr Bycroft feels house prices will slip even further over the winter, back to the level of 2004.

Jane Webb, a sales negotiator at Howards, in Yarmouth, said: “The market has got better than it was but it is still not brilliant.”

She agreed that the lack of affordability for first-time buyers was a key stumbling block.

“A lot of people in the area are on close to the minimum wage and if they are looking at a property for £60,000 they will still need to find a £6,000 deposit,” she said.

She added that a lot of properties at that level required considerable funds on top for improvements.

Blob. The NHF report says that not for profit housing associations built or refurbished 6,471 homes in the region in 2007/8 and provide affordable homes for nearly 450,000 people across the East.

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