Nurses, teachers, police officers and fire fighters can no longer afford to buy a home in most major towns, says high street lender Halifax.
Latest research by Halifax suggests 78% of the towns in Britain are unaffordable for nurses, while police officers find it impossible to buy a house in 63% of UK towns.
In addition, teachers can no longer afford to buy a house in 390 of the 634 towns that were part of the Halifax survey.
It was previously thought affordability issues for key public sector workers were largely confined to London and the South East.
However, the recent rise in house prices throughout the country has had a serious impact on people working in the public sector, Halifax says.
Nurses and fire fighters are finding it hardest to cope with the increasing prices, as the average cost of a house in the UK is almost 6 times the average salary for both professions.
Police officers are also struggling, as their average house price to earnings ratio is 4.44.
Regionally, public sector workers in East and West Midlands, East Anglia Greater London, South East and the South West are now finding it most difficult to buy their own home - a trend which is creeping further up north as the market boom spreads throughout the country.
Scotland is still the most affordable area for all four key public sector occupations, while London - unsurprisingly - remains the most expensive city as the average price of a property now stands at 8.8 times the average nurse's annual pay.
Shane O'Riordain, general manager for Halifax’s group economics, says:
"Buying a home is out of reach for an increasing number of key workers across the country. Our research shows the average UK house price is now almost six times the average UK salary for both nurses and firefighters."
He continues: "In regions where affordability is an issue the recruitment and retention of key public sector workers will become more and more of a problem."
To address the problem, the government has so far introduced a '£250m Starter Home Initiative' scheme to help people such as nurses and teachers to buy a home in areas where high house prices are undermining staff recruitment and retention.
The scheme, which will close at the end of March 2004, is expected to be replaced by a new one in April.
In addition to this scheme, people working for the public sector can also take advantage of one of the shared ownership schemes offered by local housing associations, which enables home-buyer to purchase a property in stages while the outstanding value of the property is rented from the housing association.
However, O'Riordain says:"While available throughout the country, [the scheme] is weighted towards London and the South East. Clearly, it is sensible for the government to continue with the London weighting but consideration should be given to extending the scope of the scheme outside the south of England." IFAonline
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