HOMES became slightly more affordable in Southampton last year, as average earnings rose faster than house prices, figures reveal.

Each year, the Office for National Statistics calculates housing affordability by comparing the median house price in a local authority area to the median full-time annual income of people who live there.

The higher the ratio is, the less affordable homes are to buy.

The median – the middle number in a series – is used instead of the mean average to ensure the figures are not skewed by extreme highs or lows.

In Southampton, the average house price was £220,000 and the average annual salary £29,993 in 2020.

That meant prospective buyers would need 7.3 times their annual salary to buy a home.

That figure was down slightly from 7.5 a year earlier, as the median wage grew by 4.6% while the cost of a property increased by 2.3%, making homes a fraction more affordable on average.

Affordability ratios varied widely across the South East last year – in Mole Valley, house hunters spent 16.8 times their annual earnings on a property on average, while in Gosport, the ratio was just 7.0.

The ONS said affordability across England and Wales had not changed significantly from the year before, but added that it has worsened overall since 1997.

Back then, the gap between ratios in the most and least affordable areas was just 9.9. By 2020, that had risen more than triple to 33.8.

Polly Neate, chief executive of housing charity Shelter, said homeownership is out of reach for many people, especially those on lower and insecure incomes.

“We haven’t built enough good quality or affordable homes for decades, meaning house prices have sky-rocketed,” she said.

“With no way of buying and a chronic shortage of social homes, millions have become trapped in expensive private rentals.”

House prices have soared in Southampton since 2002 – the earliest point at which local data is available.

The median cost of a property then was £108,500, with last year’s figure more than double that. Over the same period, the median annual salary increased by £10,834, a 57% rise.

A report by the Chartered Institute of Housing says that across the UK as a whole, house prices are more affordable than at their most recent peak in 2007, but less so than compared to 1994.