Cash points

Sean Coughlan looks at what's being done to help teachers on to the housing ladder

Rapidly escalating house prices are putting homes in the south-east beyond the reach of most teachers. "You only have to look at what teachers earn and the cost of housing to see there is a severe problem," says Lisa Wimborne of the London Housing Federation. "Even if property prices fell by 20 per cent, it still wouldn't be enough for teachers in many areas."

So what is being done to help teachers? Di Mellish, money advice manager at the Teacher Support Network, says an increasing number of calls to the network's helpline are about housing. Teachers feel they are in an impossible position - if they want a place of their own, they have to move out of the area or move out of teaching.

A young teacher in the leafy London suburbs earning pound;22,000 a year, at full stretch, can borrow pound;66,000 from a mortgage lender. What can you buy there for that?

There isn't any magic wand, and the link between housing and teacher shortages hardly needs spelling out. But amid the gloom is some support. The Government's key workers initiative will assist 10,000 public sector workers struggling to buy their first home in high-cost areas. This pound;250 million scheme provides interest-free loans to bridge the gap between house prices and what banks will lend. It also supports shared ownership schemes, which allow teachers to part-buy a property. These schemes allow buyers gradually to increase their share of ownership.

There are specialist housing associations such as the Teachers Housing Association and the TBF Housing Association. London's mayor Ken Livingstone has plans for a housing association for teachers in the capital. Earlier this month, Lord Falconer, regeneration and housing minister, promised to build thousands of low-rent pre-fabs for teachers. If this sounds like something from wartime, perhaps we'll be hearing next that teachers will be given "homes fit for heroes". I can just see the manifesto.

Housing factsheet from the Teacher Support Network on 0207 554 5222. Local contact details for key worker initiative from www.housingcorp.gov.uk. Email Sean Coughlan at: s.coughlan@virgin.net

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