“Priced out of Rural England” - the Norfolk people finding it impossible to buy a property in their home town or village


Blakeney Quay.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

The beautiful stretches of East Anglia's countryside have made it popular with holidaymakers and second home owners.

Proportion of second homes by rural local authority in England, from the National Housing Federation

Proportion of second homes by rural local authority in England, from the National Housing Federation - Credit: Archant

But its desirability has made it almost impossible for local people to afford to buy, with workers in rural areas being priced out of the housing market.

A report published today revealed rural Norfolk and Suffolk have seen house prices rise up to almost 14 times the average annual income.

And the figures, released as part of Rural Housing Week, show north and west Norfolk, and Suffolk Coastal, have some of the highest numbers of second homes in the country.

Low wages have seen the growth of a group of people who have become Priced out of Rural England, known as PORES.

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Wages, matched with high rents, fuel poverty and a seasonal job market, have made it harder for young people to stay in the towns and villages they were born.

North Norfolk fared worst in the report, with house prices between 12.3 and 13.9 times the average income of workers.

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And almost 10pc of north and west Norfolk's homes serve as second properties, leaving village shops, schools and bus services struggling to survive in the winter months.

Norfolk Rural Community Council chief executive Jon Clemo said the figures revealed a challenge he recognised.

He said: 'The Norfolk coast has a history of low wages and some of the big employers are retail and tourism which are traditionally low-wage professions. We need to make sure people that do those jobs can live and work locally and make more affordable houses available.'

And with the Bank of England last week suggesting a 4.5 limit for most people of value to earnings for mortgages, it could be even harder for local people to buy.

But there are organisations that go some way to help people stay in their home towns and villages.

The Blakeney Neighbourhood Housing Society was founded in 1946 to offer affordable housing for tenants with a local birth tie.

John Archibald, chief executive of Victory Housing Trust, which provides affordable homes across north Norfolk, said the trust had been aware of the problem for some time.

He said: 'The average wage in north Norfolk is quite low and affordability is not just about house price, but the income and the house price together.' The trust is committed to building 1,000 new homes by 2023, and smashed its target for last year by building 171.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said it was important to get more affordable homes built for local people.

He said: 'We need to look further at planning rules, sometimes they can be very restrictive about allowing small developments at the edges of villages.'

Mr Lamb suggested mixed developments, with some homes for sale, some for rent and some for affordable housing.

And Claire Astbury, external affairs manager for the National Housing Federation, said wages at the lower end of the spectrum had not been rising at the rate of housing.

She said: 'A lot of people who already own a house would not be able to afford to buy now.'

She said it was a problem across families, with the older generation being forced to dip into their pension savings to help children and grandchildren live nearby.

Have you been priced out of your area? Email sabah.meddings@archant.co.uk with your full contact details.

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