Home ownership little more than a pipe dream for public sector workers in Wales, says UNISON

Owning a home has become virtually impossible for many public sector workers in Wales, 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 more than 17 years in Wales for public sector workers wanting to buy for the first time to save the necessary deposit.

Monmouthshire is the most expensive local authority area. It would take someone living there 24 years to save for a deposit.

Priced Out shows that in Wales an NHS cleaner earning £17,460 a year would need to borrow on average more than six 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 nearly six times their annual wage, and a nurse earning £23,023 a year, a PCSO on £23,346 and a librarian on £23,866 would all need nearly five 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 NHS cleaners in all local authority areas other than Merthyr Tydfil and Blaenau Gwent.

Teaching assistants would only be able to afford a mortgage in Rhondda Cynon Taf, Merthyr Tydfil and Blaenau Gwent, a nurse and PCSO would both only be able to afford a mortgage in six local authority areas and a librarian in seven.

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 assistant general secretary Margaret Thomas 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.

“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.

– Case studies are available via the UNISON press office.

– UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis will be taking part in a photo opportunity with public service workers. They will be holding up ‘priced out’ mock estate agent boards on Sunday 9 September at around 1.30pm to coincide with the opening of the 150th TUC in Manchester. Further information is available from the press office.

– The UNISON report Nothing Going on But the Rent, published in June, is available here.

Media contacts:

UNISON Cymru/Wales: Alex Sims T: 07976 701906 E: a.sims@unison.co.uk