Special Report: Sheffield families lose out as market forces fuel house price rises
'It's awful to be paying out such a large amount of dead money,' said mother-of-three Natasha Green, reflecting on the Â£1,200 a month her family pays in rent for a four-bedroom detached house in Ecclesall, Sheffield.
“Obviously we’d rather pay off our own property but it’s just the situation we’re in - we can’t do a lot about it. I don’t see that we’ve got an awful lot of choice.”
Natasha, aged 34, lives with daughters Leah, 16, a sixth form student at Silverdale school in Bents Green, Lorna, 14, in Year 10 at Silverdale, and three-year-old Lillian, as well as her partner Matthew, 38, a railway signalling engineer.
They have lived on Ranelagh Drive for just under three years, after their plans to buy a home in S11 with a ‘self-certification’ mortgage fell through.
The mortgages, banned in the UK in 2011, are designed for borrowers unable to prove how much they earn - including the self-employed such as Matthew and Natasha, who runs a business selling handmade soap on Abbeydale Road.
“We can’t borrow as much as we thought we could - not anywhere near enough to get a place in S11, which is where we want to be because of the schools,” she said.
Their predicament highlights the problem faced by families who are being priced out of buying in increasingly large parts of the south west of the city, as the popularity of the best schools fuels demand.
Joanne Bloor, managing director of estate agent Bloor & Co, said: “You will quite often get a family who live just outside the catchment area, who will rent their house out to rent a property that is in the catchment.
“The prime areas are S10, S17, S11 and parts of S7 - everyone wants to live there. A lot of people who live at Norton and Meersbrook want to live in S11. There’s a lack of supply of property in the market, and that’s fuelling the demand. There just isn’t enough of anything around £350,000 to £450,000.”
According to a study by property analysts Hometrack, house prices in Sheffield have increased by four per cent this year - taking the average cost to £128,500.
But Stuart Goff, MD of Hunters at Crookes and Woodseats, said in some suburbs the rise was much steeper.
“At our Crookes office prices are up by about seven or eight per cent this year,” he said.
Mr Goff added that competition was fierce for Silverdale, the Lydgate infant and junior and Tapton schools at Crosspool, and King Ecgbert in Dore. He said that ‘without a doubt’ more families were living in smaller properties.
“You’re not really getting families looking to buy terraced houses but maybe that’s where they end up because of the price increases. With the Lydgate schools you’re really getting to Crosspool, and Crosspool is semi-detached land. Properties there tend to start at £250,000 which is maybe getting out of the reach of a number of people.”
Planning law demands that large new housing developments should offer a proportion of affordable homes. However, there are exceptions - a scheme of 97 homes at Taptonville Road in Crookes, on the site of the old Tapton student halls of residence, was approved by Sheffield Council without fulfilling the obligation as the developer said affordable properties would harm the project’s viability.
Mr Goff said: “For the greater good of the population and the country there’s quite a lot to be said for the policy that has tried to be followed - having at least a proportion of affordable housing on virtually every development. The problem from a developer’s point of view is if they build cheaper, smaller units they’re reducing their profit, and the deal isn’t as good.”
Looking to the future, he added: “It’s difficult to have a crystal ball. You can’t make any more land, the population is rising and over the medium to long-term house prices are bound to continue increasing, it’s only a question of what rate in a year.
“There might be odd hiccups. If the mortgage rate went up three to four per cent next week prices would be affected for quite a while. But the economy seems to be on a fairly good upward trajectory at the moment.”
Ms Bloor said Sheffield - and the rest of the country - needed to brace itself for further shifts in the market.
“I come from an old-school type. I like to be able to own my own home, but I think a lot of things are changing. We’re becoming a lot more multicultural. People in Europe are more used to renting. It’s a more acceptable way of living to rent on a long-term basis.”
But she described the city as ‘very pocketed’, and suggested that school standards should be increased across the board. “It’s not fair that somebody who lives in another area should have to drive to S11 to get a better schooling, but that’s what happens.”
Meanwhile Natasha and her family are continuing to rent, unable - for now - to gather together the required mortgage deposit of around £40,000.
“A house diagonal to us a couple of months ago went for £550,000 - that had four bedrooms and a garage. It’s obviously frustrating. If you were to look at paying £500 or £595 a month for a house in S5, S6, Pitsmoor or Firth Park, it would not be cheap enough to counterbalance paying private school fees.
“We’re stuck in a corner a little bit - but there’s no other way our kids are going to get into the good schools.”
Affordable homes ‘a priority’
Councillor Jayne Dunn, Sheffield Council’s cabinet member for housing, said affordable housing was ‘a priority’, but added: “As national policy does not support this, we have to find a different way of meeting the growing demand for rented housing.
“Some developments have an obligation to provide affordable housing, and where possible we take a sum of money in lieu. We aim to match these figures with other council funding and increase our supply of council housing. We have a target of building or acquiring 1,000 properties by 2020.’’
Simon Carr, MD of Dronfield-based Henry Boot, said the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership - of which his construction firm is a member - would ‘unlock the ability to build 13,000 homes’ via the SCR Investment Fund. The £300m Chesterfield Waterside scheme, with 1,500 homes, showed how the fund could be used, he said.