HOUSE prices in Winchester have risen by more than a fifth since the financial crisis, according to a new report.
The average asking price for a house in the city was £446,421 in August - a rise of 21 per cent since the pre-crash peak in May 2008 and a stark contrast to the countywide increase of 4.2 per cent.
Across Hampshire the average price was £283,217 according to the report by property website Rightmove.
The figures highlight Winchester's social housing problem with 2,109 households on the waiting list - many of whom will wait up to ten years.
City Councillor Chris Pines said the city's younger generation have been forced to live elsewhere.
“For years we have had a really difficult problem for young people who have been brought up in the area,” he said. “They've spent their whole lives living in Winchester but when it comes to finding their own accommodation, they have to move away. They lose all the support from parents and relatives.
“Houses are being bought up as investment properties. You've got ex-council properties now going for £250,000 and that's totally ludicrous.”
The rules that stipulate that councils must charge rent at 80 per cent of market prices is also having an effect in Winchester.
Cllr Pines added: “The idea with affordable housing is it's up to 80 per cent of the market prices. That's OK in Gosport but round here it's enormous prices. They're totally unacceptable at any level, age or income. That's having a profound effect on the community. It puts young people in a tremendously difficult position.
“We've got to move away from 'affordable housing' and towards 'social housing'. We may have to start looking at greenfield sites [to accommodate the numbers] which is totally opposite to the city's planning policy but that may be the bullet we have to bite.”
John Leeson, managing director of Belgarum Estate Agents, said the figures indicate a strong demand for properties in the area and believes it will continue.
“With the likelihood that interest rates remain unchanged this year we fully expect that the demand for properties in and around Winchester to continue,” he said. “This year has seen a rise to well in excess of the pre-crisis peak which is certainly not the case in other areas in Hampshire and some other parts of the UK. August has been a quieter month seasonally, as it historically is, and we expect September to be an excellent month for sales.”
George Clarendon, partner at Knight Frank estate agents, said the city is simply following the basic law of supply and demand.
“Winchester has certainly continued to buck the trend; you only have to open your weekend newspaper and Winchester is mentioned pretty consistently,” he said. “Some people think it's very expensive, sometimes to its detriment, but I think it's due to its quality of life.
“It brings a diversity of buyers, with its culture, very much like Oxford for example, and its proximity to London is such a draw. There's a very cosmopolitan feel to it and that's helped put it on the map.
“People are prepared to pay these prices whether they are down-sizing or those coming down from London.
He added: “For buyers low down the chain it's going to be more difficult getting onto the housing ladder but your vendors are going to be happy with these prices.”
Cllr Ian Tait, portfolio holder for housing services, said the number of households on the list had dropped from 3,635 in March 2013 to 2,109 today. The council has removed hundreds of people with little or no local connection or housing need. “It now means with more than 2,000 households with clear housing need and real local connections.”