Soaring commuter-belt house prices should worry us all – Scotsman comment

Homeowners in Motherwell will likely be delighted that average house prices rose by a whopping £26,103 over the past year.

Rising house prices are creating a crisis of affordability in cities and the surrounding commuter belt (Picture: Chris Furlong/Getty Images)
Rising house prices are creating a crisis of affordability in cities and the surrounding commuter belt (Picture: Chris Furlong/Getty Images)

Given this is more than Scotland’s median salary of £25,616, their house effectively provided an extra source of income for the household, simply by its existence.

The problem is that house prices are rising across the board – the Bank of Scotland recorded an increase of 8.8 per cent in Scotland, compared to 6.2 across the UK – so those tempted to cash in may find it hard to get a similar property for less.

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People may be technically richer, but if that new wealth is tied up in bricks and mortar, they may feel about as well-off as they did before.

And, of course, for those saving hard in the hope of getting onto the property ladder, the news of such large increases – which may be higher than their entire annual age – will be disheartening.

The average Scottish home now costs more than £207,000, or about eight times the starting salary of a staff nurse. In 1980, the average house price in Scotland was £15,145, or three to four times the salary of a staff nurse, who earned between £4,198 and 5,119.

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One effect of this trend, of house prices rising sharply while wages go up by much less, has been that key workers have been increasingly pushed out of city centres and cities themselves.

However, the surge in house prices in places like Motherwell and Hamilton, which saw Scotland’s second highest rise, suggests that they may soon be priced out of the commuter belt as well, with worrying effects on not just the key workers themselves but society as a whole.

In March, the Scottish government published a 20-year housing strategy, which included a pledge to build 100,000 affordable homes by 2032, “with at least 70 per cent of these being for social rent”.

Whether this can be achieved and whether it will be enough to take the heat out of the housing market remains to be seen. Enabling the construction industry to build more homes may be a better strategy in the long run.

But whatever approach is taken, housing affordability is yet another pressing issue on a growing list of current crises that are blighting the lives of many.

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