THE lack of affordable homes in Bolton has been described as a "growing crisis".
The average working person in Bolton will require a 38 per cent pay rise in order to afford a mortgage, according to a report by the National Housing Federation.
The North West Home Truths 2017/18 report reveals the average home in the borough now costs around £148,372 – six times the local typical salary.
The organisation describes the situation as a "growing crisis" and put it down to a shortfall in new housing, claiming that 1,525 too few homes were built in the town between 2012 and 2016.
Now a top councillor has called on the government to invest more money into social housing.
The report claims that pressure on people’s incomes has also been added to by private rent costs, with the average monthly rent in the town standing at £551, around 27 per cent of private renters’ income.
It also reveals that around 18 per cent of housing benefit recipients are in work, yet are still unable to afford their rent.
They say the figure show rents across the region are becoming increasingly unaffordable.
Ciaran Tully, external affairs manager for the National Housing Federation, said: 'The housing market has seen a relentless rise in the gap between house prices and people’s salaries.
"Bolton is no exception. Attaining a mortgage is increasingly unrealistic and private sector rents make saving up that bit more difficult.
"It is more important than ever for the sector to be able to deliver homes that are truly affordable. If we want to get serious about ending the housing crisis, we need to start looking at unlocking more land so we can build homes faster.'
Nick Peel, Bolton Council’s executive cabinet member for the environment, said: “There is a crisis, not just in Bolton, but nationally.
"It’s caused by a number of factors, including a lack of affordable houses being built, a lack of access for people on average and lower than average wages - particularly young people starting out - and there is a complete and utter absence of social housing policy from the government.
“They don’t actually have a strategy, and don’t seem to think it's important, but it clearly is.
“Social houses for rent are not being built at the rates they need to be. Many have been lost to Right to Buy and not replaced.
“This forces people into the private sector which is often unregulated and can be more expensive than social housing with poor conditions.
"In Bolton, we have been asking the government for funds for social housing, but councils can’t borrow money to build social housing. Housing associations can access it but they need support from central government."
Cllr Peel criticised some landowners in the town for engaging in land-banking, which is where landowners sit on land without building while also refusing to sell it on.
According to town hall figures released in December, no development work at all had begun on more than 700 homes across the borough which have had planning approval for at least 18 months.
“The council has given permission to build thousands of new houses in the borough and they remain undeveloped," he said.
“The number of houses the government said we should be building is not being reached because house builders are not doing it or the landowners are not releasing the land.
“So we get caught in a vicious circle and the government come back and tell us we’re not meeting targets.
“There’s only a certain amount the council can do. We can make sure enough land is allocated but we can’t actually frog-march people down the road and make them build."
However, Ben Washington, director at Horwich-based Lancasters Independent Estate Agents, said he did not believe there was a housing crisis in Bolton.
He said he had witnessed an increase in the number of first time buyers in the past 12 months.
He put the increase down to an influx of people moving to the town due to price increases in central Manchester.
He said: “My experience on the ground is that I have seen the opposite.
“I think when the market was not strong a lot of people did go into rental and there’s a lot of those people now thinking that’s not a good use of their money.
“We have a great influx of new builds at the moment. If there had been a shortfall I would suspect that would be balanced off by all the new ones."