The annual review has also found that the unaffordability problem is no longer a London phenomenon. Over the past three years, the percentage of towns in the north where the average house is unaffordable for nurses has risen from 13% to 79% and from 13% to 85% for firefighters. Similarly, in Scotland, the typical house is now unaffordable for nurses in 62% of towns compared with just 5% in 2001.
Nationally, housing affordability deteriorated further for all four groups of key public sector workers in 2004. The current situation is worst for nurses with the average house price 6.6 times the average salary for the occupation (4.4 in 2001) followed closely by fire fighters with an average price to earnings ratio of 6.5 (4.3 in 2001).
Teachers and police officers have an average house price to earnings ratio of 5.4 (3.2 in 2001) and 5.1 (3.2 in 2001) respectively - close to the average ratio for full-time male employees. Whilst police officers and teachers are still in a significantly better position than nurses and fire fighters, housing has become significantly less affordable for both sets of key workers.
The only bright spot in the annual review is that the situation in London and the south-east has stabilised over the past year following the slowdown in house price growth in this part of the country. As a result, the average house price to earnings ratio for nurses in London fell from 8.9 in 2003 to 8.8 in 2004 as nurses' earnings rose more rapidly than house prices in the capital. There was a similar decline from 7.4 to 7.3 for teachers.
Martin Ellis, chief economist, commented: 'Housing is more unaffordable for more key workers than ever before. There are now very few parts of the country where nurses and teachers can easily get on the first rung of the housing ladder. Unaffordability was previously a London phenomenon but has now become a national issue.
'The current government sponsored key worker schemes are weighted heavily towards London and the south-east. There is now a strong case for the government to significantly extend the reach and impact of these schemes outside the south of England.'
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