Putting a roof over your head can seem like an impossible struggle. Average rents across the UK are up another 4% over the past year - to £702 a month, and in London are up 11% to £1,268. Meanwhile house prices have reached new highs of £188,858 - up more than 7% in the past year alone.
When we look at the averages, we can be overwhelmed by the impossibility of ever affording somewhere decent to live. But if you look a little closer, there are some far more affordable parts of the UK, which would fit tens of thousands of budgets. We reveal the five most affordable places to rent and buy a house.
Average rents are running away in some parts of the country, but actually fell 3.6% in the North West over the past 12 months. Meanwhile in the North East they were down 2.5% and in Wales they fell 2%.
A study last year looked at average rental costs and average wages, and named the five most affordable cities for rental prices in the UK.
Plymouth was named as the most affordable city, because rental prices make up just 27% of a renter's take-home pay. This due partly to robust income levels, because in Plymouth the average income is £30,586. It's also due to the fact that the average monthly rent is just £510.
It's hard to see how Plymouth has remained affordable, as local agents report strong rental demand and relatively low supply. Yet the same agents highlight that if someone attempts to charge more for rental, the property will simply hang around on the market until the price is reduced, so there is a definite ceiling to rental prices.
The market is likely to be affected by the fact that it is dominated by those on lower incomes, seeking smaller properties, who have smaller budgets. So those on average salaries and more will tend to buy property instead.
The study showed that Plymouth was followed by Cardiff, Leeds, Norwich and Glasgow. It's worth highlighting that these aren't spectacularly cheap, because in Leeds, Norwich and Glasgow, rent accounts for around a third of take-home pay, which is still a huge chunk of your living costs. It's only when you compare it to the likes of London, Edinburgh and Birmingham - where it's closer to 50% - that it actually starts to look affordable at all.
Most affordable to rent
It will come as a surprise to those trying to get onto the housing ladder right now, but life is more affordable in general for those who have bought their own property. This is partly because despite the huge increase in house prices, record low interest rates have kept mortgages to manageable levels, and partly because the figures include huge numbers of people who bought their home when it was far less ruinously expensive.
However, for those looking to buy right now, a study last year by the TUC revealed only one place that it considered affordable (where house prices were less than three times local earnings) - Copeland in the Lake District. This area bucked the trend in the wider Lake District, where house prices are eight times local salaries.
Copeland benefits from higher salaries than elsewhere locally, partly because it is home to the nuclear facility at Sellafield. Meanwhile, its relative isolation acts to depress housing, because it's unsuitable as a commuter area. Travelling to Carlisle, for example, takes an hour, and to Manchester takes three hours.
The second most affordable town is Barrow-in-Furness, where house prices are 3.04 times local salaries, as the area follows a similar pattern of being relatively isolated, so is in less demand for property and yet within reach of south Lakeland and Sellafield, where wages are higher.
These towns are followed by Burnley at 3.28 times, Hyndburn in Lancashire at 3.5 and Stoke-on-Trent at 3.57. All three have notably cheap housing, with the average price paid for a home in Burney in the past year reaching just £106,331, and the average property in Stoke-on-Trent fetching £120,937 in the past year.
Most affordable to buy
If you take wages out of the equation, a separate study last year found that the cheapest place to buy property in the UK is Stanley in County Durham - where property costs just £181 per square metre. The next cheapest is Pontypool in Wales, where property costs £902 per square metre, followed by Wishaw in Scotland, where it costs £925.
In fact half of the top ten is in Scotland, two of the cheapest towns are in Wales, two in the North of England and one in the North West. It means that if you have the freedom to live anywhere in the UK, and price is key, then the North and Wales remain the best place to start.
Of course, finding the right work - and for the right wage - is vital if cheap housing is going to be affordable. And the fact that people are not snapping up houses in these more affordable areas goes to show we are affected by more than the cost of housing when we're choosing where we want to live.
But what do you think? Do these affordable areas appeal, or are you wiling to pay far more, and take on less affordable costs, in order to live somewhere else? Let us know in the comments.
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