The next Affordable Homes Programme is set to be the biggest shake up in recent years to the affordable housing market. Whilst initial reactions across the sector have been mixed, there seems to be an overwhelming agreement that a move to improve the customer offer is welcome. However, without working through the detail of the changes and how these are to be funded it is difficult to digest their true potential.
Shared ownership is needed in society. It’s important to provide affordable opportunities for people to have access to a stable, well located home. At MTVH, we have accepted that it is part of our DNA to improve the offer for our customers.
We welcome the 10% minimum share starting position which clearly creates an opportunity for a much broader group of buyers to benefit from the product. However, there is a risk that this new proposal will limit our goal to build more affordable homes. It would be impossible to build significant affordable housing programmes based on large proportions of sales based on such low equities. This would create a need for significantly more grant funding and a vast increase in Housing Association borrowing requirements, ultimately reducing the number of homes we can provide.
A positive from the announcement is undoubtedly the Government’s commitment to allow buyers to staircase in 1% share increments. We established SO Resi Plus in 2017, which allows our customers to increase their shares by 1% each year for 15 years at an agreed, fixed price. Our model is a proven success, and our research shows that giving buyers certainty of what they will pay for additional shares is key to maximising opportunities.
At MTVH we feel passionately about delivering affordable homes for all, whether this is through affordable rent or shared ownership. We want to work together with the sector and government to ensure that these latest policy announcements are workable in practice and deliver the affordable homes that this country so desperately needs.
We are in the midst of a severe housing crisis that is not going away anytime soon. As a sector, we need to recognise that affordable rent and shared ownership are two fundamentally different products that serve different purposes, but that both are a core part of what we are here to do. Perhaps it’s time for a new narrative, one which shifts away from a constant pitting one tenure against another.
Kush Rawal, Director of Residential Investment at Metropolitan Thames Valley Housing (www.mtvh.co.uk)
Thursday 17th September 2020