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BIRMINGHAM POST: Rural first-time buyers should not be forced in to city.

When we think of areas suffering deprivation, the images that come to mind are usually inner city estates.

But a new report from Halifax has exposed the difficult financial position of some rural residents.

The average house price is higher in the countryside than in towns and cities.

But earnings are lower, and there is far less access to social housing such as homes available to rent from councils or housing associations.

The result is that first-time buyers are frozen out of the property market.

One issue not noted by Halifax but reported in parts of the West Midlands is a tendency for successful professionals from cities such as Birmingham to buy homes in the shires and commute to work.

Nobody could blame a person for wanting to enjoy rural life, but one effect is to push up countryside house prices even further out of the reach of local people.

When the average price of property is 7.1 times average annual earnings, even those who can afford to buy are likely to struggle with the mortgage they are forced to secure.

The Halifax survey is a timely reminder of the importance of ensuring rural communities are not ignored.

Big cities tend to command more attention than shire towns and villages, and they obviously have a much higher population.

But the Government and agencies such as Advantage West Midlands must make a deliberate effort to consider the needs of people in shire counties as well.

While new housing on greenfield land is always controversial, social housing for local people may be the form of development least likely to encounter resistance.

And the Treasury should do what it can to make life easier for people buying their first home.

Rural communities will not survive in their present form if the people who grew up in them are forced to move to the cities in order to find somewhere to live.
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Title Annotation:Leaders
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Aug 25, 2007
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