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I have just read about Jeremy Paxton's Lower Mill Estate ( ajplus 08.05.07) and am intrigued by his perception of 'affordability'.

Assuming that a prospective purchaser has saved up £25,000 (5 per cent of the purchase price) their mortgage will be £475,000.

Assuming that one can borrow five times one's income, this would require an income of £95,000 a year. This might be 'affordable' to the high-profile architects who are designing the scheme, but few mere mortals could afford it.

When it comes to house-buying, the government defines affordability as 3.5 to 4 times earnings. The same source quotes average incomes in rural areas in 2004/5 to be £17,400, which would give an affordable home cost of just under £70,000. A wage rise averaging 3 per cent in the three years since would raise the affordability definition to about £76,000.

Paxton may be spinning his project as affordable housing, but the AJ should not be perpetuating this fiction. Better to celebrate good sustainable design, though how well Paxton's proposals perform in sustainability terms also remains to be seen.

Verity Bird RIBA, senior lecturer in architecture/interior design, Southampton Solent University

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