Sector working together

Big opportunity to enhance a vital tenure

Rhys Moore – head of media, campaigns and public affairs at the National Housing Federation

Those of us who work in the sector know shared ownership’s great strengths. Over the past four decades it has helped many thousands of people access affordable and secure housing. Many have also ‘staircased’ to full ownership, fulfilling a common dream of owning the home they live in. 

And yet, we’re all honest about the aspects in which shared ownership as a product currently falls short. Some of these – such as inconsistencies in service and advice, and the lack of understanding among many people about how staircasing works – are laid bare in the survey conducted by Aster. 

Members have told us there are two clear areas that need to be addressed if we’re to improve the shared ownership customer journey. 

First, there must be greater consistency across the UK. The product differs among housing associations. Many providers have dedicated shared ownership teams, who market the tenure as a standalone product that is suitable for those caught between renting and buying in the traditional way. Other housing associations, meanwhile, position shared ownership as a straightforward affordable housing product, similar to social and affordable rent. Neither approach is wrong, but they can inadvertently cause confusion. 

The second area that needs to be addressed is the shared ownership brand. I’ve highlighted before that the government’s prioritisation of Help To Buy over shared ownership is not necessarily helpful. At the same time, housing associations differ in how much focus they put on shared ownership and the tenure is also not fully understood by many members of the public. 

This leads me to what we at the NHF are doing to enhance shared ownership, allowing more people to benefit from it. 

We’ve been working with our members to formulate a single shared ownership brand. This is something that Aster’s Amy Nettleton – who is chairing a steering group of colleagues from housing associations across the country – is heavily involved in. 

We’ve held a series of workshops gauging the thoughts of leaders on the current barriers to shared ownership. Those we’ve gathered views from see brand awareness and consistency as key issues, but the customer journey, access to land and planning rules have also all been highlighted. 

But while the concerns are clear, so is the desire for the sector to work together to improve shared ownership and the customer experience. In doing so, we can help more people understand that to fulfil their dream of living in affordable, secure and high-quality home, they should speak to their housing association. 

We’re excited about launching our new campaign to help boost shared ownership, and I’m pleased Aster is continuing to play a major role in enhancing this vital housing tenure.