The industry needs support if shared ownership is to reach its potential
Sharing the burden
Bjorn Howard, group chief executive of Aster Group
At Aster, along with many of our colleagues in the housing association sector, shared ownership is a no-brainer.
Thousands of people on middle and above average incomes cannot afford to buy a home. They aren’t eligible for affordable housing, leaving them locked into the unstable and insecure private rented sector, vulnerable to rent increases or having to move house on a landlord’s whim. This is bad for people’s lives and future prospects and bad for our economy. It is why shared ownership has long been one of the cornerstones of our mission and purpose.
If you were trying to think of a solution to fix today’s market and bridge this gap, you’d come up with shared ownership. But the fact is it’s been around for 40 years.
Last year, our first and ground-breaking study showed that even after several decades most of the British public didn’t understand the basics about how shared ownership worked. Remember that only half of respondents knew that shared ownership didn’t mean living in your home with another person?
This time, we wanted to better understand the experiences of those already living in shared ownership properties.
What we found was a group of people passionate about what they’d done – willing to tell those they know and love to follow their example and wanting to see much more shared ownership development.
Yet, they lack the knowledge they need to make effective choices about their next move in the housing market.
And, for those keen on increasing their slice of ownership, they feel cut off from doing so because affordability rears its head as an issue once more.
This is a wakeup call for both our sector and the government.
We’ve argued for a long time that policy makers need to ensure that the government puts a priority on promoting shared ownership, which remains the poor relation of Help to Buy. Inequalities, such as the fact that first-time buyer stamp duty relief isn’t available on all shared ownership properties, need to be removed.
And the housing association sector, not only as the leading developer of shared ownership properties but also, as our latest study finds, the single main source of information about it, is falling short in its job of educating people.
We are already in dialogue with policy makers, most recently through the All Party Parliamentary Group for Housing and Planning, about what industry and government can do together to help better promote it as a solution for our broken housing market. I hope that the insights from this report will provide us all with valuable lessons on what we need to do next.
In this report, you can see a full breakdown of the key findings. Our assistant development director - sales and marketing, Amy Nettleton – who also chairs the National Housing Group – provides some analysis of what the findings mean for those setting policy, and for the industry. And the National Housing Federation’s Rhys Moore shares his thoughts on our findings and their implications for the future of shared ownership.
As a nation, we still look at housing as a binary choice between renting or buying. Much as we did in the 1950s.
It’s time we moved the conversation on. But we can’t do it alone.