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The most affordable UK cities to rent!

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We round up the cities that offer the best value to tenants - and those that really don't


York is a beautiful city, full of culture and history. It’s also the most affordable city in which to rent your home, according to a new study by flatsharing website Easyroommate.co.uk.

The website looked at the average rent and average earnings of each of the UK’s 55 largest cities to work out which city represented the most affordable in the nation, with York coming in first place. The average rent for a room in York is £270 a month, representing just 13% of the average monthly wage in the city.

So why does York represent such great value – and which cities are most likely to see you pay through the nose to live there?

A renter’s dream

According to Easyroommate.co.uk, the monthly rent in York is £78 cheaper than the national average, a not inconsiderable sum.

Watch out for this scam if you’re a tenant!

Part of the reason York represents such great value is that it has taken a fairly hefty hit thanks to the recession. Some of the large employers in the region, like Norwich Union and Network Rail were forced to cut jobs, leaving many York residents looking for ways to supplement their income.

This led to a significant increase in the number of homeowners looking to rent spare rooms in the city – and while the economic situation in York has improved, rents have not increased at a similar rate. In the words of Easyroommate.co.uk, the city represents a perfect situation for renters – the rent is actually the cheapest of any city in the UK, while the average income is only slightly less than the national average.

The top five most affordable cities to rent in

It’s not just York that represents a great deal for renters though. Let’s take a look at the top five most affordable cities to rent.

City

Average monthly rent

Average monthly income

Affordability (rent as proportion of income)

York

£270

£2,077

13%

Loughborough

£304

£2,192

14%

St Albans

£410

£2,932

14%

Cardiff

£302

£2,094

14%

Swansea

£290

£1,994

15%

As you can see, the Welsh cities of Cardiff and Swansea both represent very good value, due in no small part to the fact that the monthly rent you will typically face there is noticeably lower than in other parts of the UK.

Not such good value

What about the other end of the spectrum – the least affordable city in which to rent.

Nobody will be surprised that the highest rents in the UK are charged in London. However, the higher income levels within the capital prevent it from taking top spot in the least affordable city.

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Instead, it’s the one city where I have personal experience of the rental market that is officially the least affordable to rent – Southampton.

If you want to rent in Southampton you’ll be handing over more than a quarter of your monthly income in rent – a whopping 27%! Indeed the actual average rent in Southampton is only slightly less than that you’ll pay in London, astonishing given the fact there is nearly £700 difference in monthly income.

In some ways it’s not surprising that Southampton represents such poor value for renters. I went to University there, and remember vividly the struggle to sort out decent accommodation once we left the Halls of Residence. This is a fairly small city that houses two very large Universities, boasting around 41,000 students (a number increasing all the time), all of whom need to find somewhere to live.

It’s not really a huge surprise that such a level of demand has forced rent up to such high levels (though I certainly didn’t shell out that much for the dive of a flat I rented!).

The bottom five

So let’s take a look at the other least affordable cities for renters.

City

Average monthly rent

Average monthly salary

Affordability (rent as a proportion of income)

Southampton

£516

£1,914

27%

London

£551

£2,594

21%

Exeter

£372

£1,839

20%

Nottingham

£362

£1,805

20%

Leicester

£314

£1,669

19%

As you can see Southampton is streets ahead even of London in terms of the affordability it boasts for renters. It also is worth noting that all of the top three are in the south or south east, while the rest of the top five is made of towns in the Midlands. Northern cities are conspicuous by their absence.

It’s about to get worse!

Worryingly, the lot of the renter may be about to get a lot worse.

Easyroommate.co.uk reckons that rents will increase by a whopping 10% across the UK over the next two years, due to a variety of reasons including rising unemployment and first-time buyers struggling to get mortgages.

The poor supply of rental properties is only likely to exacerbate the situation as well – according to the Association of Residential Letting Agents, the supply of properties available to rent is at a record low. The trade body reported 70% of member offices reporting more interested tenants than available properties in the second quarter, a figure rising to 76% in the South East.  

And that lack of supply is already having an impact – LSL Property Services reckons rents jumped by 1% across the UK in June thanks to undersupply, while in London rents are nearing levels last seen in November 2008.

Something tells me that average salary levels are not going to be increasing at the same rate. It’s looks like renters will face a tough couple of years. But what do you think? Please share your thoughts using the comments box below!

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