Housing Associations hold the key to success of open market shared equity programme

In a welcome move, the Scottish Government has signalled a strong desire to support first time buyers by increasing funding in to the open market shared equity programme. However, the challenge will be to find suitable homes that fit the criteria of this scheme that are of the right size and standard.  

New build properties are unlikely to fit the bill as they carry a premium, and many starter homes are designed to be just the first step on a long housing ladder whereas first time buyers in the shared equity market are more likely to be trying to secure a home for their future. They know that renting is not for them and securing a permanent home will bring significant benefits in a market short of supply. 

The answer could lie with Housing Associations and their own stock, which is of a quality and energy standard that many second hand market homes in the same price range will never achieve. The benefits of refreshing and revitalising our neighbourhoods by creating mixed income communities are well known. The financial upside for Housing Associations and their new supply programmes will mean that housing opportunities will grow as overall numbers increase.

Over the last three years Castle Rock Edinvar has established a programme of 300 transfers from Social Rent to Mid Market Rent and this has enabled the delivery of more than 1000 new homes. Introducing a different client group in to our neighbourhoods has had a noticeable impact and our housing officers have reported reduced Anti-Social Behaviour and improved wider area management.

How could such a scheme work on an even bigger scale, and what would be the implications? First and foremost any programme of tenure diversification needs to start with a plan for what housing and area management will look like in the future. Many Housing Associations are also factors in mixed tenure developments and this knowledge and experience will be essential to ensuring that the overall quality of the neighbourhood is maintained and improved.  

An upfront assessment of the running costs of the common parts and individual responsibilities must be established. A clear set of criteria of what types of properties are suitable for first time buyers also needs to be established. Properties have to be of a good standard and long term asset management problems can not be passed on through disposal. A mix of unit sizes, flats and houses, as well as housing for older people should be included.

Fundamentally, a clear plan for how any money is reinvested should be set at the start. At a very basic level, if an average unit price of £100,000 is assumed, then sales could generate in the region of £90,000, after any debt is paid off. This can then be reinvested in new build programmes. Combining this income with the grant money that is currently available could significantly accelerate the delivery of affordable homes for rent.

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