Home ownership 'the impossible dream'

 IT IS just as well ambulance paramedic Michael Baker bought his East Ballina home 10 years ago, because chances are he couldn't afford to buy it now.

A recent survey has found many key public servants on the Northern Rivers are unlikely to be able to afford their own homes as the gap between property prices and income widens.

The survey, conducted by Bankwest, shows housing affordability for our nurses, teachers, police officers, firefighters and ambulance officers has rapidly deteriorated over the past five years, with the average Byron Bay house price 7.7 times a key worker's annual earnings, and 6.7 times at Ballina.

It also shows house prices have increased by 66 per cent since 2002, compared with an average 31 per cent increase in income leaving more than one-quarter of regional cities unaffordable for key workers and 15 per cent of towns and rural areas out of reach.

Mr Baker said it was disturbing to think the gap between property prices and incomes was increasing so dramatically.

While the worries of buying a home are behind him now, he said it would be an uncomfortable situation for others to be in especially young key workers trying to save enough money to buy their first home.

"There's no way I'd be able to afford to buy my home now," Mr Baker said.

"How would you ever save enough to buy something like a $600,000 house?

"Even if you save five to 10 thousand dollars a year to get a 10 per cent deposit, it's going to take about 12 years.

"It's like they say, the only time to get into the real estate market is now. Put it off and you'll regret it."

North Coast organiser for the NSW Teachers' Federation, Nicole Major, said the survey results were confirmation of what the federation had been saying about teacher salaries for some time.

"In reality, a lot of people can't afford to work where they want to because they just can't afford to live there," she said.

"Wages aren't even keeping up with inflation, which makes buying a house and living in coastal areas utterly impossible for many.

"It is a big issue, and all public servants are in the same boat."

Ms Major said the NSW Teachers' Federation was continuing its calls for 'fairer pay' for teachers.

Senior Constable Mal Sutherland, chair of the Ballina branch of the NSW Police Association, said the increasing gap between house prices and pay was especially difficult for younger police officers just out of the academy.

They were generally on a lower wage, making buying a home at somewhere like the Northern Rivers or Sydney almost impossible, he said.

"A lot of officers go out west where it's cheaper to live," Snr Const Sutherland said.

"You don't get too many people living and working in places like Ballina a lot of people work here and live where houses are cheaper at Lismore or Goonellabah.

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