Prospective buyers in North Devon have to pay 10 times their annual salary on average to buy a home, new figures show.

Across England and Wales, the affordability gap between the most and least expensive places to live is at its widest since records began.

Each year, the Office for National Statistics calculates how affordable housing is, by dividing the median house price in local authorities by the median full-time annual income.

The higher the ratio is, the less affordable homes are to buy. The ONS uses the median which is the middle number in a series, instead of the mean average, so the figures are not distorted between extreme highs and lows.

In North Devon last year, the affordability ratio was 10.0, well above the England and Wales average of 7.8.

The average house price was £235,000, and the average annual salary £23,599.

This vast gulf between earnings and house prices highlights the impact of the housing crisis, with buying a home out of reach for many.

The drastic increase in house prices since 2002, when the ONS first began comparing this data, is the main cause.

The average home in North Devon then cost £114,000. The 2018 figure is 106 per cent higher. In that time the average annual salary has only increased by £7,447, a 46 per cent rise.

Polly Neate, chief executive of the housing charity Shelter, said: “The figures leave us in no doubt that owning a home is an all-but-impossible dream for millions of working families.

“Combined with the dire lack of social homes, this has left huge numbers of people with no choice but to rent privately.

“It cannot be right that so many families, especially those on lower incomes, now face a lifetime in deeply unstable private renting, where they’ll have to pay well over the odds to keep a roof over their head.

“More families desperately need the option of social housing, and they need it now.”

Houses in North Devon were surprisingly more affordable than in 2017, with the ratio decreasing by 1.2 per cent.

Nigel Henretty, head of housing analysis at the ONS, said: “After five years of decreases, the estimated affordability of homes in England and Wales remained static in 2018.

“It’s also notable that the estimates show newly built homes remained significantly less affordable than existing properties.”