Priced out: The impact of rising house prices on St Albans' young people
PUBLISHED: 07:30 04 May 2017
St Albans has a declining youth population as city house prices rocket, according to statistics and case studies.
The average (mode) age in the district rose from 37 to 45 in just a decade as the cost of property has soared by 65 per cent, suggesting the historic city could soon be a ghost town.
Sarah Hardy, 21, of Marshalswick, St Albans, is living at home and feels she would need to move to Hatfield or Welwyn Garden City to afford a place of her own.
She said: “I am not even considering living in St Albans. My friend has a poky apartment in the centre of town and is paying a grand a month.
“I am still living at home and considering moving out of town.
“Everybody (under 30) here is either still at school or college and there is a gap between them and people in their 30s. Nobody can afford a house.”
Census data shows the number of St Albans residents in their 20s dropped by more than 400 between 2001 and 2011 to 14,173, now less than the figure for 59-68 year-olds of 14,502.
In February, research by The Guardian showed house prices in St Albans have risen by an average of £500,000 from 2007, the highest inflation of any city in the UK.
The decline in individuals aged 20-29 suggests young people are being priced out and residents agree that getting on the property ladder is almost an impossible ask.
Ian Lough, 30, of Adelaide Street, St Albans, said: “In the centre of town you are talking £400,000-plus, I can see people would leave to go elsewhere.”
Marco Rossi, 32, now lives in Luton after moving from Frogmore and feels he could not afford to buy a property in St Albans.
He said: “It is far too much money and council tax is too expensive. It is not feasible. Renting is pretty much the only option.”
Chris Evans, 30, of Portland Street, St Albans, added: “I would not say (buying a house) is impossible, but it is certainly very difficult. I am not really looking to buy somewhere at the moment.”
Members of St Albans District Council agreed a lack of affordable housing was why fewer young people now live in the city.
Local authorities need to provide a certain percentage of housing deemed affordable in their strategic local plan (SLP). Conservative councillor Jock Wright feels the SLP is an opportunity.
He said: “St Albans, with its enviable schools, swift journey times to London and idyllic cathedral draw more and more wealthy residents which pressures the affordable end of the housing market.
“I found myself priced out and have been squeezed eastwards. This undoubtedly over time will exacerbate the ability to accommodate younger families and local workers.
“It is a national problem. The solution whilst not simple is to build affordable housing more swiftly than many of our residents would probably like to see.”
He added: “It’s through our SLP and the commitment this Conservative council has to building affordable and social housing, including on the green belt, that will begin to redress this imbalance.
“I only hope older residents will recognise that if they would like their families to remain local they need to support and welcome the building of new affordable homes and all that entails.
“Otherwise St Albans could find itself hollowed out of young people much to the detriment of the sense of community.”
The council’s SLP proposal to build 436 homes annually until 2031 was rejected by the planning inspector late last year. This was to replace an existing plan drawn up in 1994.
Councillor Simon Grover, leader of the council’s Green Party, said: “Young people who live here with their parents can’t afford to stay in the city when they leave home so they have to leave.
“Most people would have to be well in to their 30s or older before they had saved enough for a mortgage here. And renting is very expensive too.
“The reasons for the crazy house price rises are the structure of our economy. Houses are seen by many as assets instead of places to live.
“Secondly, the economy is geographically skewed to the London area, so there are huge pressures on housing and other infrastructure.
“The Government needs to act on both these fronts.”