Commuter towns follow cities with unaffordable rent

Areas in commuting distance from major cities have seen some of the sharpest increases in rent

Pol Allingham
Saturday 02 March 2024 12:42 GMT
Manchester city centre, 20 minutes from Bolton
Manchester city centre, 20 minutes from Bolton (PA Archive)

Commuter towns across the UK are seeing huge rises in rent as a knock-on effect of cities becoming more expensive to live in.

The cost of a new let rose twice as fast as earnings in six British cities and towns over the last three years, according to data from property website Zoopla.

At the same time, areas in commuting distance from major cities have seen some of the sharpest increases in rent prices.

Over the past three years rents have risen by more than a third in Bolton, Newport and Bradford, all towns a short journey from major cities, Zoopla data showed.

It takes around 20 minutes by train to travel from Bolton to the centre of Manchester.

A let in the Greater Manchester town cost an average of £569 in December 2020 and rose to £789 by December 2023, a 38.7% increase.

The growing cost of new lets in Bolton has outpaced Manchester, where rents have risen 37.8% in three years, from £776 a month to £1,069.

Last year alone Bolton experienced the highest rent rise of any UK area in the Zoopla survey, 14.8%.

Over the past three years, rents in the town have grown at the second highest rate of all the areas covered in the research.

Newport is around 15 minutes by train from Cardiff and rents there have soared from an average of £653 to £878 in the same time span.

Meanwhile, the cost of lets in Bradford, around a 20-minute train journey from Leeds, was found to have risen 33.8%.

Rents outpaced earnings in Glasgow, Bolton, Manchester, London, Edinburgh and Wigan, Zoopla found.

However, it said the growth in rents is expected to slow over the coming year.

Executive director of research at Zoopla, Richard Donnell, said: “Rents have risen fastest in UK cities, but affordability pressures have pushed renters to seek better value for money in commuter towns where there are more homes for rent.

“Big cities have led the way on rental growth as demand rises in the face of static rental supply – we have the same number of rented homes as in 2016.

“Demand has been driven by the unaffordability of home ownership, the re-opening of the economy post-pandemic, strong jobs market, record student numbers and high immigration for study and work.

“The reality is that rents have risen as much as mortgage payments for those moving rented home after the average stay, but with no meaningful support for renters, unlike mortgagees.”

“Only increasing supply and getting more homes built across all tenures is the answer.”

Mr Donnell added: “We simply aren’t building enough homes, especially for those on mid to lower incomes.

“Rental inflation is starting to slow, largely on affordability factors which will provide some relief for renters but improving affordability will need more supply.”

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