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Priced out of the city
FEWER than half of Oxford families own the roof over their heads for the first time in three decades.
Just 47 per cent of the city’s homes are occupied by the people who own them with the rest rented out by private landlords, councils or housing associations, according to the latest figures released by the Government’s Office of National Statistics (ONS).
And there are warnings that future generations will be priced out of Oxford with estate agents reporting an increase in bidding wars and gazumping.
Lucy Antony, who works for agents Cridlands in Bicester, said they were seeing houses sell for tens of thousands of pounds over the asking price in parts of Oxford.
She said: “There is not a lot of stock on the market and there has been a slight freeing-up of the mortgage market, so all this is combining to make a big bubble.”
The biggest surge has been in the number of private landlords, which has more than doubled over 30 years from 6,000 to 15,600.
They now own more than one in four properties, while the number of families in social housing has plummeted by a third.
As private landlords charge rent of up to three times as much as the council or housing associations, this has piled more misery ontothose struggling to climb on to the housing ladder.
They are finding it harder to save for a place of their own, as more of their income is swallowed up by higher rent.
There is a double whammy, as average house prices in Oxfordshire have reached a new high of £256,383, a hike of six per cent in the past year, according to the Land Registry.
And the gap between property prices and average earnings has grown so much that Oxford has overtaken London to become the UK’s least affordable city, according to the report Cities Outlook 2013, which examined costs in 64 cities.
Oxfordshire’s worsening housing crisis comes against the backdrop of fresh warnings from the National Housing Federation, which warns the housing shortage is pushing prices and private rents out of reach of local workers.
Its report, entitled Home Truths 2014 South East, shows that while average salaries have gone up by 23 per cent in the past 10 years, house prices have rocketed more than twice as fast at 56 per cent. Its Yes to Homes campaign calls for more new homes to be built as soon as possible.
But the local branch of Campaign To Protect Rural England’s (CPRE) new Protect Rural Oxfordshire campaign is at odds with this.
It challenges the claim in a new Government assessment that the county needs 100,000 new homes by 2031 and will fuel the row over building on Green Belt land.
The CPRE will this week unveil a report suggesting the real need for housing is nearer 8,000 for Oxford and 30-40,000 for the rest of the county City councillor David Rundle, pictured left, vice chairman of the east area planning committee, said: “What’s necessary is to make sure that the full housing stock is available. We do have empty houses and although that’s up to the owners, it does cause problems.
“It creates extra anger for people when they see these buildings not being used and know people need housing.
“A lot of people who work here can’t afford to rent in Oxford. As to what the CPRE says, we need green space but we have to be careful that the Green Belt doesn’t squeeze the life out of Oxford.”
City councillor David Rundle
Van Coulter, Labour city councillor for Barton and Sandhills, said: “The number of private buy-to-let landlords is going up year-on-year, so a few seem to be controlling access to housing through their accumulated wealth.
“The Government is putting millions into helping private landlords expand their buying strength but being very frugal in giving councils (funds) to provide social housing.
“They are encouraging private landlords, who charge up to three times the rate of social housing.
“In Barton, houses still owned by the council on which the rent is £110 a week have been brought up to a really high standard and through various schemes are self-funding, so it’s not costing the taxpayer anything.
“There are houses next door, which used to be council owned and are now riddled with damp, privately owned and rented out for £300 a week.”
'WE HAD TO PAY £60,000 OVER THE ASKING PRICE'
Anna Halloran, 29, beat off huge competition to buy a two-bedroom house in Marston.
But the interior designer and her fiancé Guy Mole had to stump-up £60,000 more than the £250,000 asking price.
They raised the £100,000 deposit from the sale of Ms Halloran’s one-bedroom London flat and Dr Mole’s house in Brighton. And they took out a mortgage for £240,000 to cover the rest of the price plus the cost of renovating it.
Ms Halloran said: “The house is completely derelict and needs £30,000 spending on it.
“It was the best and final offer, so we offered almost £60,000 over the asking price.
“It was difficult to get a mortgage and four high street banks turned us down before we found one who would lend to us.
“Then, five people tried to gazump us in the days afterwards by offering up to £25,000 more than us.
“Luckily, the vendor stuck with us, which was fantastic.”
Lucy Antony, of agents Cridlands, recently handled the sale of a two-bedroom house in Frenchay Road, Walton Manor.
It was advertised at £550k but was snapped up for more than £800k within a week of going on the market.
Ms Antony said: “It needs £200,000 spending on it and has been empty for two years.
“We had 150 phone calls about this house and 50 viewings over two days.
“It’s not just North Oxford, we are seeing this moving further out to other areas, such as Kidlington.”
Chipping Norton-based agents Fairfax & Co saw a bidding war over a property in William Street, Marston.
It was on the market at £250,000 but sold for more than £60,000 over the asking price.
Fairfax’s Max Bonehansaid: “This was a two-bedroom, terraced house that needed completely gutting.
“We had a bun-fight over that, with loads of people after it.
“The first four who walked through the door offered the full asking price.
“Then we had three open house days and about 27 viewings.
“We were getting phone calls from people in Dublin, Spain and Portugal wanting to make an offer without even seeing it.”
OUT OF REACH
Prices in Oxford are out of reach for all but the wealthiest buyers, or those with access to the Bank of Mum and Dad. And many must wait until they reach their thirties or forties, to save enough of a deposit.
There is some aid in the shape of the Government-backed Help to Buy scheme. This allows house-hunters to buy a new-build or existing home up to £600,000, with just a five per cent deposit.
But with the average house in Oxfordshire costing £256,383, a buyer would need to put down at least £12,000-£13,000.
That leaves £244,000 to be borrowed through a mortgage, costing £1,400 per month but it would be rare for a bank to lend this much.
Bank of England interest rates have been pegged at 0.5 per cent since March 2009 but experts expect them to start going up next year.
This has sparked fears that some buyers will not be able to afford their monthly payments.
'A CHAOTIC FREE-FOR-ALL'
Research analyst Matt Ledbury would love to buy a house in East Oxford but can’t afford to.
He and his partner have three children and pay £1,100 a month to rent a three-bedroom house in Barnet Road.
It is within walking distance of St Mary & St John Primary, where their six-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son are pupils and within easy reach of Cherwell School, where their 16-year-old studies.
Mr Ledbury, 45, said: “I have money saved but the speed at which house prices keep going up and the competitiveness of the market makes it extremely difficult to get somewhere. You are permanently up against cash buyers, often buy-to-letters and the whole thing is made worse by TV programmes which suggest buying property to do up then sell on is a way to make a quick buck.
“Also, it’s become tougher to get a mortgage, in terms of what you have to do to prove you can afford it.
“It’s easy for people to say we need thousands more homes built but it’s not a question of just slinging up houses, there needs to be a wider solution.
“Everyone should have the chance of an affordable place to live but what we have is a chaotic free-for-all.”
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