How affordable is housing for people in lower income occupations?

This briefing explores housing affordability for lower income occupations in the context of rising housing costs across England.

31 March 2017

The research shows that five million low-income workers, such as carers, nursery nurses and teaching assistants, are now priced out of buying and renting in almost every region of the country.

The findings highlight how for this group of people, whose jobs are key to our economy and local communities, the current ‘broken’ housing market just isn’t working.

Despite being employed, they’ve simply got nowhere to turn and have seen their housing costs drift away from their earnings more than any other occupational group.

Key findings

  • Despite a moderate increase in earnings in 2016, housing costs are an increasing burden for many individuals and households. This is particularly true for workers in lower-paid occupations.
  • The average annual full-time earnings of people working in the three lowest-paid occupations range from £17,665 (the care, leisure and other service occupations) to £18,462 in the elementary occupations. The average worker in the sales and customer services occupations earns £18,262. This is about £10,000 less than the national full-time median of £28,213.
  • While average earnings are higher in areas of higher housing costs such as London, this is largely due to a higher proportion of people working in higher paid occupations. Crucially, even in London more than 1 in 5 (21%) jobs are in lower-paid occupations and it is 27% across the UK.
  • Housing affordability is therefore one of the key issues faced by people in low-paid occupations in areas of higher housing costs, both in terms of private renting and access to home-ownership.
  • Earnings have not kept up with increases in house prices – while earnings have increased by 38% between 2002 and 2016, house prices have risen by 120% over the same period.

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