House prices in the Central South risk damaging public services

Public services may be at risk because key workers cannot afford to live in the region, research by the Southern Policy Centre has revealed.

House prices across Berkshire, Dorset, Hampshire, Surrey and Wiltshire are already among the highest in the UK outside London. Quite how affordable they are to local workers is measured by the ratio of the average* house prices in an area to the average salary earned by local residents. In the Surrey towns of Dorking, Esher, Leatherhead and Weybridge, for example, the average house price is 14.5 times the salary of local residents – so home ownership is beyond the reach of many. Even in the cities of Southampton and Portsmouth, where prices are lower, the ratio of house price to salary is 7.5.

For those in many public services, where salaries are traditionally lower, the barrier to home-ownership is greater. In Dorking, for example, a mid-priced house for the area would cost 19.2 times the salary of a teacher at the middle of their pay range. In the ten least affordable districts across the Central South the same house would cost that teacher 14.6 times their annual salary, compared with 12.7 times the average salary of all local workers.

For others the picture is even harsher. An experienced Staff Nurse who hopes to live in Dorking, Esher, Leatherhead or Weybridge faces average house prices 23 times their annual salary. Even in the areas with lowest prices, a mid-priced house will cost over 8 times their salary.

For hard-pressed hospitals trying to recruit nurses, local house prices can be a real barrier. The table below shows for the areas where the Central South’s major hospitals are located the ratio of house prices to salary for all those working locally and to the salary of a Staff Nurse. In every case, those nurses face prices many times their salary, and a bigger barrier to home ownership than many others working in the area.

Hospital Location Ratio of prices to salary
Average Salary (all workers) Nurse’s Salary
Queen Alexandra Portsmouth 7.5 8.1
Southampton General Southampton 7.5 8.4
Poole Poole 9.9 11.1
Royal Bournemouth Bournemouth 8.8 9.9
Salisbury Wiltshire 8.9 10.5
Royal Berkshire Reading 9.2 12.0
North Hampshire Basingstoke & Deane 8.9 12.2
Royal Hampshire Winchester 11.2 16.4
Royal Surrey Guildford 11.8 17.5
Frimley Park Surrey Heath 10.3 16.2

Dr Simon Eden, Associate at the Southern Policy Centre, who led the research, said:

“We all know that our region is an expensive place to live. But SPC’s research highlights just how much of a challenge nurses, teachers and others on modest salaries face in trying to get on the housing ladder. Without action to help people who are vital part of our communities we face a very real threat to the continuity of services we all rely on.”