First-time buyers could be finding a great deal of potential in Manchester property, if the latest figures from the Halifax are anything to go buy.
The mortgage lender's First-Time Buyer Review said that the affordability of residential properties is the highest it has been for eight years, with 95 per cent of the most affordable local authority areas located in the north of the country. The review noted that the average cost of a first property is now “lower than the price someone on average earnings in the area can pay based on the historical average house price to income ratio,” making Manchester property more affordable than was previously the case for people on average incomes.
The Halifax review bases its analysis on figures gleaned from its own national database, the Office for National Statistics, the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Council of Mortgage Lenders. It highlights the ongoing “north-south divide”, pointing out that just 5 per cent of affordable properties for first-time buyers can be found in the south of England, making Manchester property all the more appealing – the Manchester area is a cosmopolitan one, with something for everyone and easily able to compete with the best that the south has to offer.
Halifax's chief housing economist commented that “housing affordability for those looking to get onto the property ladder for the first time has improved significantly over recent years, largely as a consequence of the decline in house prices since 2007.”
He added: “Nevertheless, conditions for potential first-time buyers remain tough. Difficulties raising the necessary deposit and concerns over the economic climate are preventing many from entering the market.”
Halifax went on to say that this year saw some 187,000 first-time buyers, which represented the lowest yearly total since records began in 1974, and a 7 per cent fall compared to 2010. Hopefully things will be picking up in 2012, if the affordability of Manchester property and homes in other regions across the north continues to increase.
Manchester property could be set for a planning and development renaissance following revelations that government proposals could see powers transferred from Whitehall to regional hubs.
Under the government initiative, centres such as Manchester could gain strong new powers to direct and regulate housing, planning, transport and jobs.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: "Our cities have been straining at Whitehall's leash. They now have a once in a generation opportunity. I urge them to seize it and make it count."
Mr Clegg is currently hosting talks with Britain's major cities – including, naturally, Manchester, to help thrash out tailor-made deals and conduct a “bonfire of Whitehall controls,” which best take advantage of their individual strengths under the government’s Cities Agenda, which was announced last week in Leeds. It is believed that final deals will be ready to be signed off by the time of next year's Budget.
The other “core cities” earmarked for new powers under the scheme are Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield, with others to follow later.
“We are in a unique position as a city region, in that we are the only place in the country with a statutory body to delegate those powers to. This is a big test for government. If they give us a serious package of devolution, it will be a real incentive for other areas,” commented Greater Manchester Combined Authority vice-chairman and Manchester Council leader Sir Richard Leese.
Sir Richard went on to say that a newly-empowered Manchester could do far more to improve the employment situation, stimulate business and provide greater encouragement to the powerful Manchester property sector.
“This is a government desperate for economic growth in the private sector but the way things are, it is constraining our ability to help deliver that,” he pointed out.
“This is us saying ‘set us free and we will be able to generate that’.”
Manchester property experts believe that by handing more power back to the region, councils will have more control over their budgets and will be able to reduce the red tape that can hamper developments. The draft National Policy Planning Framework, currently being negotiated in Westminster, aims to change planning laws, so the default answer to an application is ‘yes,’ for instance.
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