This is how an affordable homes promise could bridge the gap for Harrogate first-time buyers

Harrogate's housing market may be bouncing back but Covid-19 is making things much harder for first-time buyers.

Thursday, 17th September 2020, 9:59 am
Updated Thursday, 17th September 2020, 10:18 am

Back in February, buying a house here was tricky enough.

Harrogate was - and still is - one of the most unaffordable places to live in England, with average house prices around 11 times the average annual income of workers in our area.

The first step onto the property ladder is one the biggest financial steps many of us will ever take - and it is now only going to get tougher as coronavirus continues to put an extra strain on buying power.

Harrogate is one of the most unaffordable places to live in England, with average house prices around 11 times the average annual income of workers.

On top of that, a mini boom in the property market post-lockdown has pushed UK house prices to a record high.

Average price tags have topped £245,000 for the first time, but that is still a long way off the average of £355,000 in Harrogate.

So where does that leave first-time buyers? And what is being done about it?

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has this month announced new measures to help more people get onto the property ladder as part of a £12.2bn investment in increasing affordable housing.

The money will be ploughed into a scheme to provide up to 180,000 new homes across the country - and the first time, half of these will be available to buy.

Mr Jenrick also unveiled reforms to make it easier for people to get on the housing ladder via shared ownership schemes.

This will include a reduction in the minimum initial share that can be bought in a property from 25 per cent to 10 per cent.

He also announced new rules to make all new homes more accessible for older and disabled people.

Mr Jenrick said: "This government is helping hard-working families and prospective first-time buyers get their feet on the housing ladder in an affordable way.

"Thanks to the range of flexible ownership options being made available, more families across the country will be able to realise their dreams of owning their own home, with half of these homes being made available for ownership."

The government pledges to boost affordable housing have been redoubled by Harrogate Borough Council which set out in its Local Plan that almost 4,400 affordable homes are needed over the 2014-2035 period.

To hit this target, the council has pledged to put pressure on housing developers to bring forward more lower-cost homes at building sites in the district.

It has also recently pumped an extra £10m of loaned cash into its commercial housing company Bracewell Homes as it looks to buy and free up more affordable properties.

Councillor Rebecca Burnett, the council's cabinet member for planning, said: “It is important that everyone living in Harrogate district has the opportunity of a decent and affordable home.

“We know average house prices in the district are higher than national and regional averages.

"So that’s why we are requiring developers to provide affordable housing within new schemes across the district to help local people who cannot afford to buy or rent homes get on the property ladder."

What is affordable housing?

The government definition of affordable housing states it must be provided at a level at which the mortgage payments on the property should be more than would be paid in rent on council housing, but below market levels.

It must also be able to remain at an affordable price for future eligible households, the government says.

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter