The UK city with the most unaffordable housing... and it's not London

London has lost its title as the trickiest place to get on the housing ladder

The most unaffordable homes in the UK are no longer in London, according to recent research. London has long been synonymous with unaffordable homes, but the pandemic has shifted the capital from its long-held unenviable top spot as the most hostile place for first-time buyers.

Now, even with all the best property advice in the world, first-time buyers and even current homeowners wishing to size up will find it difficult to buy a house in several places outside London. As more people have been able to relocate and work remotely, the relentless pressure on the capital's housing sector has eased somewhat.

Now more and more people setting their sights on smaller towns with a slower pace of life. The result? Skyrocketing house prices with local wages unable to keep pace.

Winchester has the most unaffordable housing in the UK

exterior of houses with river and bridge

(Image credit: Davide Renda / EyeEm/Getty)

The market town of Winchester has suffered the most from the sudden widening of the gap between house prices and local incomes. According to a study by Halifax, a typical home here now costs an eyewatering 14 times the city’s average income of £45,000.

Winchester is very well positioned for commuting into London, while having beautiful countrywide right on its doorstep. The town has seen a huge influx of home buyers from London, driving up prices.

city with houses and sky

(Image credit: Joe Daniel Price/Getty)

Oxford came second for unaffordability, although the gap between house prices and salaries has been widening in the city for many years, well before the pandemic. Truro, in Cornwall, Bath, and Chichester have also seen huge leaps in house prices while wages have remained largely stagnant.

These scenic locations, unsurprisingly, have been singled out by discerning buyers looking to relocate from an urban area without sacrificing comfort and standard of living. London, shockingly, came in only sixth for unaffordability, despite its enduring reputation as the most unaffordable.

houses with road bridge and river

(Image credit: Paul J Davis/Getty)

All of these locations also offer better value for money than London, with more space now named by many home buyers as a deciding factor in their decision to leave London.  Data from property specialists Cornerstone Tax found that in the past year, over 3.3 million Brits have moved away from a city or urban area, a trend that is likely to continue for some time as more and more people discover the benefits of remote working.

David Hannah, principal consultant at Cornerstone Tax, commented: 'The pandemic has caused a significant, and potentially permanent, shift in cultural attitudes towards property and living. We now want a garden, office space, and more greenery in our local surroundings, rather than focussing on commuting distance and proximity to leisure pursuits.'

If the prospect of house hunting any of these unaffordable locations fills you with dread, you may consider shopping around the most affordable cities instead.

Anna Cottrell is Consumer Editor across Future's home brands. She moved to the world of interiors from academic research in the field of English Literature and photography. She is the author of London Writing of the 1930s and has a passion for contemporary home decor and gardening.