Buying a home has become a distant dream for many young Londoners. With prices outstripping salaries by more than 10 times one couple has taken an imaginative approach to getting on the housing ladder. Helen Barnes reports

A new poll has revealed up to 54 per cent of young people in the capital expect to wait at least 10 years before they will be able to buy their first home.

The YouGov survey, commissioned by the National Housing Federation (NHF), also found 6 per cent of 18 to 30 year olds think they will have to wait 20 years before they can get on the first rung of the property ladder.

Affordability is a particularly acute problem.

At the end of 2009, the federation’s London Home Truths report highlighted the growing disparity between house prices and salaries.

It found that in Richmond, the average house price of £508,883 was equivalent to 15.2 times the average annual income of £33,384.

It means many are being priced out of the market and are either putting any house purchase on hold or taking the decision to move to an area where prices are cheaper.

Others, however, are finding more imaginative ways of fulfilling their dreams of owning their own home.

Hannah Dutton-Waller and her husband Rob bought the Railway pub, in Hampton Wick High Street, with plans to convert it into a family house.

The couple had been living in a two-bedroom rented flat but after months of fruitless searches they were no further forward.

The difficulty was finding a property they could afford in the borough where they lived and worked.

Mrs Dutton-Waller, who works at Hampton Wick Infant School, said: “We spent two years trying to buy an affordable home. We were looking for a way to be able to stay in the area and to have a family home.

“This property was on the market for a year but initially we didn’t look at it because it was a pub.

“Then we started talking to the brewery and the estate agents.

“The pub had 63 viewings. Of those three people were interested in putting in a bid – one was a developer who wanted to turn it into flats. What we want to do is change it for residential use. It’s a very scary decision for us.”

The couple bought the Railway from brewers Greene King after the pub was deemed to no longer be a “viable business”.

The Beer and Pub Association estimates community pubs are closing at a rate of 39 a week across the UK as a result of tough financial conditions, with sites snapped up by developers, perpetuating the vicious housing cycle.

While there has been some opposition to the loss of the pub and its new use, the couple say they have also received a lot of support from their neighbours.

Mr Waller runs a business from home and plans to use part of the pub as an office, retaining employment in the area.

Belinda Porich, head of the London region at the NHF, said: “Young Londoners are giving up hope of ever being able to afford their own home and who can blame them.”

She said the Government and political parties needed to commit to building significant numbers of affordable homes for rent and sale to avoid locking an entire generation out of having their own home.

A colourful past

Built as a coach house more than a century ago, the Railway has long been at the heart of the community.

It was also a stopping place for travellers – being on a route close to Kingston and located by the railway line.

But the most colourful moment in its history was when it was run by landlord John Stryker.

Unbeknown to pub regulars and residents Stryker was in fact American Nofio Pecora Jr, a fraudster with links to the Mafia.

He settled in Hampton Wick – and created a new life and identity – while on the run from the FBI.

During his three years as landlord, he renamed the pub Stryker’s Railway – it later reverted back to its original name – and he became the most popular man behind the bar.

Pecora was arrested in 2003 after his double life was exposed when he was accused of trying to obtain a British passport and a shotgun licence under a false name.

He was arrested when he turned up for a meeting about his passport application and was extradited to America where he was wanted on federal charges of fraud and money-laundering dating back more than a decade.

He went on the run before he was tried and appears to have taken his bogus identity from the US Marine sergeant played by John Wayne in the 1949 film Sands of Iwo Jima.

Listed as a building of townscape merit, the pub had faced increasing competition and had seen trade decline.

Regulars launched a campaign to save the watering hole and lodged objections to its change of use after the Railway closed its doors for the last time in March.

But they were unsuccessful.

Owners Greene King took the decision to sell the pub because it was no longer a “viable” business.

A spokesman said: “Unfortunately custom has declined over the years, which has resulted in our decision.

We sympathise with the few loyal customers of the Railway, but the pub was just not sustainable with them alone.”

Hampton Wick councillor Tony Arbour said: “The loss of any business from Hampton Wick reduces the vibrancy of our community.”