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Research reveals who can and cannot afford a home in key UK cities

A lot has been written about how professional people like nurses, teachers and police officers struggle to get on the housing ladder in the UK but now new research looks at who can and cannot afford to buy a home.

It found that train drivers are able to afford a considerably greater proportion of homes in all six of the UK’s major cities, than police officers, teachers and social workers.

In London, where police officers earning average salaries of £44,824 can afford to buy just 8% of homes and teachers typically earning £42,359 can afford just 7%, train drivers on average salaries of £66,320, can access 27% of the city’s housing stock.

The research from comparison website ReallyMoving says that situation has worsened over the last two years, compared with 2016 when teachers could afford 13% of homes and police officers 14%.

Indeed, low earners have now been almost entirely priced out of the capital’s housing market as wage stagnation puts nearly all homes out of reach, despite house prices falling over recent months. Bar staff can afford only 1% of the capital’s homes, sales assistants 2% and taxi drivers 4%.

The analysis used price paid data from the Land Registry and from the Office for National Statistics on earnings to look as home affordability in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Cardiff, Glasgow and Belfast.

The UK’s second city, Birmingham, also follows London as the second most unaffordable city when comparing average house prices with typical earnings. Only 2% of the city’s homes are within reach of bar staff and just 4% are affordable to sales assistants working in Birmingham, while cabbies and car mechanics could consider buying 20% of the city’s homes.

Glasgow is the most affordable city in the UK for low earners who wish to buy their own home, closely followed by Manchester. Bar staff in Glasgow, earning on average £14,047, are able to afford 5% of all homes, taxi drivers 42% and car mechanics 46%.

The city also offers plenty of choice to middle earners, with nurses able to afford 52% of homes, teachers 65% and train drivers 82%, while chief executive’s earning on average £86,758 per year, have the choice of 93% of the city’s housing stock.

Manchester is the second most affordable city for low earners, with 10% of housing stock within reach of bar staff, 13% affordable to sales assistants and 40% to taxi drivers.

Chief executives fare the best across the UK, scoring 88% or more in every city other than London, where they can still afford to buy 75% of homes. Doctors, another highly paid profession, also scored more than 85% in every city apart from London, where even they, earning on average £86,785 per annum, can only afford 49% of homes.

‘Becoming a train driver may not be a profession many people consider, but in fact it is surprisingly well paid and offers a great chance of getting on the housing ladder, even in London, where train drivers can afford over a quarter of homes,’ said Rob Houghton, chief executive officer ReallyMoving.

‘Sadly, police officers and teachers now find themselves almost entirely priced out of the capital, despite the fact that they provide some of the city’s most essential services. They do, however, have a very good chance of securing a home in the regional city of their choice,’ he pointed out.

‘This research shows that, despite falling prices in London, the affordability gap continues to grow and is likely to do so until wages begin to show sustained increases alongside continued negative house price growth. For those seeking the dream of home ownership and a better quality of life, regional cities such as Glasgow and Manchester offer fantastic prospects and the opportunity to buy a suitable home within budget,’ he explained.

‘I expect to see the current outward migration from the capital to regional cities increase over the short term, as wage stagnation puts home ownership even further out of reach for all but the highest earners,’ he added.