As property prices in the countryside in England and Wales surge by 14.2pc a year, fears grow of an affordability crisis for young people.
As people seek more space post-pandemic, rural house prices are increasing twice as fast as in cities, with hot spots exploding across the country from Cumbria to Cornwall. Figures analysed by Hamptons estate agency show prices in urban areas rising at less than 7pc.
The increase is aggravating existing affordability problems in locations such as Devon and Cornwall, but the greatest percentage increases of up to 30pc were found in Broxtowe in Nottingham, Arun in West Sussex, Amber Valley in Derbyshire and around Lancaster.
Registrations to buy in Hamptons’ rural offices increased by 50pc over the same period in 2019, while city buyer registrations climbed by just 9pc.
Lower standards of rural homes
An independent councillor in Broxtowe, whose three children aged 24 to 30 have left the area partly due to the unaffordability of local housing, said people struggle to stay because of high prices and very little turnover of housing. The average rural house price in the borough rose from £234,150 last May to £303,780 one year later.
In Arun, near the West Sussex coast and the South Downs National Park, residents say people moving from London and working from home on higher salaries than could be obtained locally have driven prices further out of reach. Rural house prices in the area soared more than 29pc to £387,510 in the last year.
Even before the pandemic, young people in the countryside were struggling most to move onto the housing ladder outside London, research by the Labour Party suggests. Whereas in predominantly urban areas outside London house prices were seven-and-a-half times higher than a person’s annual earnings, rural house prices were almost nine times higher. Recently, it has been estimated there are 132,000 fewer young home owners in rural areas in England than in 2010.
The party has also stated that standards of housing in rural settings are lower, as official figures show the number of homes classed as non-decent is more than double that of urban residential areas.
Signs Covid boom may be slowing
Luke Pollard, the shadow environment, food and rural affairs secretary, said it is basically unfair that so many young people who want to live and work in rural areas are priced out of staying in their community. People should not be forced to move away from where they grew up in order to get on the property ladder, nor should they have to inhabit substandard housing in order to stay, he added.
Community staff in Kingsand on the Rame peninsula in souh-east Cornwall say villages in the area had become ‘totally unaffordable for local families’. House prices have soared and there is a new shortage of rental properties as owners increasingly move to more profitable short-term holiday lets on platforms such as Airbnb. The impact of second homes and holiday lets are becoming all too apparent in neighbouring villages.
Meanwhile, Rightmove data show the largest June increase in asking prices since 2015 although some economists have questioned whether the Covid boom is starting to fade. The huge increase in sales compared with the pre-pandemic period appears to be diminishing. The number of sales agreed in May was 17pc greater than the same point in 2019, but this followed sales in April which went up by 45pc compared with two years earlier.
Economists and housing market experts have been surprised, or perhaps even taken aback in some cases, by the strength of the UK house price boom during the Covid pandemic.
Tim Bannister, Director of Property Data at Rightmove, said there were ‘early signs of a slowdown in the frenetic pace’ of house sales, but this was partly due to a combination of high prices and the number of houses on sale hitting an all-time low.