FOUR Scottish towns are among the most affordable in the UK for key workers, including police, firefighters, nurses, teachers and paramedics.
Wishaw in North Lanarkshire, Irvine in North Ayrshire, Cumnock in East Ayrshire and Clydebank in West Dunbartonshire were among the top 10 most affordable towns in the UK based on the ratio of average house prices to earnings for key workers.
For firefighters, the five most affordable towns in the UK are all in Scotland – Wishaw, Cumnock, Irvine, Clydebank, and Airdrie. Wishaw is also among the five most affordable towns for teachers, nurses, paramedics and police. No Scottish towns are at the other end of the affordability scale.
The research by the Halifax found 38% of UK towns are now affordable for key public-sector workers looking to buy a home, compared to 36% in 2012 and 4% in 2008 when the UK Government launched a £120 million, five-year scheme to help key workers in England and Wales build up a deposit to buy an affordable home.
The Scottish Government has also helped fund affordable housing schemes. The Halifax says Scotland is the region that has seen the greatest number of towns – six – switch from unaffordable to affordable in the last five years.
A town is classed as affordable if the average house price is no more than four times the average salary of a key worker.
According to the survey, the ability of key public-sector workers to buy a home continues to improve and is approaching the level achieved 10 years ago before the house-price boom, with declines in house prices in the north of Britain behind the change.
Halifax housing economist Martin Ellis said: "The greatest concentration of affordable housing is found in towns in northern England, Scotland and Wales. However, there are still significant affordability issues for key workers in London and the south-east.
"A combination of declining or static house prices in many areas, with some growth in earnings, has contributed to the improvement in housing affordability since 2008. However, significant house-price growth in the past decade as a whole has meant that housing is still unaffordable in more than half of the towns surveyed."
All key-worker occupations analysed – fire-fighters, nurses, teachers, paramedics, and police officers – have seen large improvements in the affordability of house-buying in the last five years, with police and paramedics seeing the greatest improvements.
Nurses have seen the proportion of affordable towns increase from 7% to 35%, teachers have seen an increase from 11% to 40%, and fire-fighters have seen an increase from 1% to 31%. However, the largest gains have been made by the police (18% to 49%) and paramedics (18% to 50%).
The least affordable areas for key workers are all in London, where house prices are a lot higher than the national average. The least affordable areas include Islington, Hammersmith and Fulham, Camden, Westminster, and Kensington and Chelsea.