Key workers stand a much better chance of getting on the property ladder than they did five years ago - but only if they live outside the south of England, a report revealed today.
Four in 10 towns are now affordable for nurses, teachers and other key workers, compared with 2007 when there were just 12 towns, according to the Halifax Key Worker Housing Review. However, the figures are yet to return to the level of a decade ago when more than half of towns were affordable.
Martin Ellis, housing economist at Halifax, said that growth in earnings coupled with house price declines accounted for the recovery.
The affordable towns list, which is based on locations where average house prices are below four times the average earnings for key workers, is dominated by northern locations.
Former mill town Nelson in Lancashire has the most affordable housing for firefighters, teachers and nurses while police officers fare best living in Newtonabbey near Belfast and paramedics in Peterlee, County Durham.
Mr Ellis said: "The greatest concentration of this improvement has been in northern England, Wales and Scotland but there are still considerable affordability issues for key workers in the South East."
Only two southern towns made it into the affordable list - Clacton on Sea, Essex and Gosport, Hampshire - while the house price to earnings ratio in Greater London was 7.6.
Teachers have seen the biggest five-year leap in affordable towns from 6% to 47%, while nurses, who in 2007 could afford a home only in Wishaw in Scotland, can now look to buy in 113 towns (25%). Police officers and paramedics can afford homes in over half of towns, from levels of 15% and 23% respectively five years ago.
Those looking in Newcastle-upon-Tyne may do better to consider the commuter town of Morpeth, which became affordable this year, while the city, known for its vibrant nightlife, fell off the list.
Peterborough, Lincoln, Carlisle, Lancaster and Coventry also joined the affordable list this year while Dumfries and Dover are among those that came off.
There are 17 more affordable towns than last year, but Mr Ellis warned that the rate of recovery is slowing. He said: "House prices nationally have changed little in the past year, which together with pressure on public sector earnings, has resulted in only a modest improvement in home affordability for key workers in the past 12 months."