In April this year the government relaxed the rules on eligibility for shared ownership by opening it to anyone with a household income of less than £80,000 (or £90,000 if you are buying in London) - meaning more people across the country are able to buy. For me, this supports my personal belief that shared ownership is the only genuinely affordable home ownership product on the market.
I know that shared ownership has had mixed reviews but I think it can provide a vital first step on the property ladder for many who aspire to home ownership. Shared ownership can help people with a low deposit, looking for security of tenure and the ability to put their own stamp on a home.
Buyers can buy a share in a home, ranging from 25%-75% of the price of a property and are charged a subsidised rent on the portion of the home they don’t own to a housing association. When they are able to financially they can ‘staircase’ and buy more shares up to full ownership, or they can stay as shared owners if that suits them.
To me it’s the ideal way to take that affordable step on to the property ladder and eventually outright ownership. In fact, we saw a 170% rise in the number of customers in the North West taking advantage of staircasing in 2015/16 to own a bigger portion of their property – or own outright. This to me suggests that our shared ownership customers are feeling confident in the market, confident in their investment and confident in the product.
Despite speculation that products like shared ownership will slump following Brexit, I can honestly say that we’ve not seen any trends to suggest this is the case. It’s very much business as usual and while we need to keep a close eye on the market and mortgages we’re firmly committed to providing more shared ownership opportunities.
We have plans to continue to supply an increasing number of shared ownership properties in Merseyside and Cheshire, through working closely with government agencies such as the Homes and Communities Agency, and also with housebuilder and developer partners, and local authorities.
Plus Dane is a housing association with a social purpose - offering housing and other services across a wide range of tenures and markets whilst retaining our social ethos. Shared Ownership, I believe fits in with our ambitions as it provides a choice, and an affordable way into home ownership.
Many prospective buyers may not even be aware of this affordable homeownership option so Shared Ownership Week (15th to 21st September) is a great opportunity for people to find out more on how the scheme works, who it’s for and how to access it. What I’d say is that you may be pleasantly surprised to find that you could buy a share and eventually own your own home.
Blog by Claire Griffiths, Executive Director for Property at Plus Dane Housing, which is the Government appointed Help to Buy Agent for the North West. We are a one-stop shop for applications and information on affordable home ownership schemes across the North West. These include Help to Buy – Equity Loan, Shared Ownership and Older Person’s Shared Ownership. For more information www.helptobuynw.org.uk.