Home ownership now little more than a pipe dream for public sector workers

Owning a home has become virtually impossible for many public sector workers across the South East, according to new UNISON research.

Owning a home has become virtually impossible for many public sector workers in the South East, according to research published today (Sunday) by UNISON.

Getting a deposit together and obtaining a mortgage are often insurmountable hurdles for those living in the majority of local authority areas across England, Scotland and Wales, according to the findings.

The UNISON report Priced Out highlights how saving the money for a down payment on a property could take decades. This is based on first-time buyers saving £100 every month for a deposit*.

The research focused on the salaries for employees in five jobs ­– an NHS cleaner, teaching assistant, librarian, nurse and police community support officer (PCSO)**. It calculated what multiple of their annual income they would need to borrow for a mortgage once they had paid a deposit*.

It would take 32 years in the South East for public sector workers wanting to buy for the first time to save the necessary deposit.

Elmbridge is the most expensive local authority area in the region where it would take 52 years to save for a deposit. The Prime Minister’s own local council, The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, is the fourth most expensive local area in the South East.

Priced Out shows that in the South East an NHS cleaner earning £17,460 a year would need to borrow on average nearly 13 times their salary to secure a mortgage for a first-time buyer property.

A teaching assistant earning £19,446 a year would need to apply to borrow 11.3 times their annual wage; a nurse earning £23,023 a year would need almost 10 times their pay; a librarian on £23,866 and a PCSO on £23,346 would both need more than 9 times their pay.

Given that the Bank of England’s maximum recommended lending limit is 4.5 times a person’s salary, Priced Out shows that a mortgage is completely unattainable for a all five job categories in every area of the region.

The report shows that the national housing outlook is bleak, with house prices predicted to grow faster than wages until at least 2022.

Priced Out follows on from the UNISON report Nothing Going on But the Rent, published in June, which highlighted the high cost of renting for public sector workers in England. The report found that average rents were unaffordable in many regions, especially for people working in lower paid jobs such as hospital porters and teaching assistants.

Commenting on the report, UNISON South East regional secretary Steve Torrance said:

“Owning a home is now little more than a pipe dream for most public sector workers.

“Deposits and mortgages are quite simply way out of reach, while the spiralling cost of renting is eating up a growing proportion of the take home pay of working people across Britain. Wage rises haven’t kept pace with soaring house prices and rents, and the situation looks set to worsen.

“The struggle for housing cuts across generations, jobs and regions. Employees are being forced to work further away from their jobs, and young people cannot afford to move out of the family home. This puts wholly unnecessary additional pressure and demands on our Nurses, Teaching Assistants and PCSOs in the south east as they work to deliver essential services we all rely on.

“The government has had more wake-up calls over the growing housing crisis than hot dinners. Decisive, creative and responsible action is needed now.”


Notes to editors:

  • * UNISON has based its calculations on a property deposit of 15%.
  • ** The data is based on the starting salaries of a band 2 NHS cleaner, a band 5 nurse, and the most common pay rate for a teaching assistant and a librarian. For the PCSO it is the typical starting rate plus shift allowances.
  • The UNISON report Priced Out is available here, with a full regional breakdown of the 377 local authority areas covered by the research.
  • The UNISON report Nothing Going on But the Rent, published in June, is available here