Housing Finance online highlights growing problems for first-time buyers across the UK

All four countries saw a decline in the number of first-time buyers. In England, house prices rose by 13% in 2004 and the average amount borrowed rose to almost three times the buyer's income, compared to 2.8 times income in 2003.

The review looks at trends in each of the four national markets, and a pattern of contrasting experiences emerges. In England and Northern Ireland, for example, house prices rose by 13% last year - close to the UK average of 14% - but prices rose by 28% in Wales and 22% in Scotland.

The review - the first article to be published in Housing Finance online, which is launched today (see Notes to Editors) - also looks at projections for population growth, where again the picture is mixed. So while the population of the UK as a whole is expected to increase by around 10% over the next 30 years, but growth will not be uniform across the four countries. Scotland, for example, is forecast to see a continuing decline in its population.

Commenting on the review, the CML's deputy director general Peter Williams said:

"What emerges is a picture of contrasting trends in local markets, but the over-arching theme is one of growing affordability problems and a decline in the number of first-time buyers. Last week's announcement by John Prescott provides some welcome encouragement for first-time buyers in England. One straightforward reform that the UK Government could implement to help improve affordability for first-time-buyers wherever they live would be to raise the threshold for stamp duty in the forthcoming Budget."