Home | News & Insights | 2022 | Housing affordability could hinder Cambridge’s next generation of economic success

Housing affordability could hinder Cambridge’s next generation of economic success


Cambridge’s future economic growth could be at risk unless more steps are taken to improve housing affordability in a bid to attract and retain a younger workforce, a new report has warned.

The research has been undertaken by Cambridge Ahead, a consortium of businesses and academic members who share a common goal in achieving inclusive and sustainable growth for Cambridge and the surrounding area.

Using data compiled by property firm Savills, Cambridge Ahead worked with its Young Advisory Committee – aimed at professionals under the age of 35 – to outline the preferences and challenges faced by many young people who are keen to keep, or make, Cambridge their home.

The research groups young people who want to live and work in the city into four key ‘tribes’:

  • Worker Bees – people in their first job.
  • Cambridge Cogs – essential workers who keep the city running.
  • Limbo Landers – people who have grown up in the city and want to remain in the place they call home.
  • Space Cadets – those looking to get a foot on the housing ladder for the first time but choose to settle in outlying towns and villages because they cannot afford to live in the city.

The report provides an estimate of the number of households in each group and where in the city’s travel to work area they predominantly live.

According to the research the median house price in the city is now 12.6 times the median income of those working in the area, compared to 4.4 in 1997.  At the same time, the private rental market is one of the most expensive in the country with the average rent for a one bed property now standing at £1,000 per month.

Dan Thorp, Director of Policy at Cambridge Ahead, said: The popularity of the Cambridge city region as a place to live and work brings challenges at the same time as opportunities – heightening a housing affordability crisis which means the city struggles to retain vital younger workers.  

“Our report shows that younger households are only able to access a very small proportion of the homes on sale and that average rents easily exceed a third of median average salaries. This causes many younger households to live in shared housing within the city or in nearby towns, which puts even greater stress on an already overworked infrastructure.

“The ongoing success of Cambridge relies on our ability to attract and retain young people to live and work here – if we fail to act the long-term impact on business growth and public service delivery will be profound.  We hope this work will provoke a discussion with and between those that set housing policy, and those who bring forward major developments in our city region.

“Policy makers and developers must work together to develop solutions which meet housing needs now, and in the decades to come – exploring intermediate rental models, purpose built rental accommodation, co-living, compact housing and other ideas to meet the varying preferences of young people according to their life stage and priorities.”

Abigail Jones, a director within the development team at Savills Cambridge, added: “Importantly this research looks at the preferences of groups of younger people, and the trade-offs they are prepared to make depending on their circumstances. Whether they prioritise for example, personal space, social interaction, proximity to work, access to frequent public transport, or many other conditions. Understanding these dynamics is crucial in finding viable and realistic options to better meet the housing needs of younger people in a highly pressurised housing market. 

“There are a number of new neighbourhoods under construction or planned across the city and the potential to create connected, green communities is now an important priority.

“There is an exciting opportunity for developers, planners and local authorities to work in partnership to establish an innovative and fresh approach to deliver a variety of new housing products and tenures that aren’t currently available – but which would better suit the needs of the younger population. Balancing the needs of different types of households in terms of both price point and tenure, along with delivering homes that allow for sustainable lifestyles, is a conundrum and a priority.”

Read the full report here.



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