Housing association Aster Group has called on political parties to work together fix Britain’s housing market and put shared ownership at the centre of their general election manifestos.
The group, which has increased the number of shared ownership properties within its portfolio by almost 50 per cent to 2,500 over the past two years, has urged all parties to not ‘rip up the rule book and start again’.
Instead Aster calls on all parties to collaborate so that those that take power can implement long-term solutions with a much stronger chance of success. This should include a commitment to existing home ownership products, in addition to a focus on education to help raise awareness of shared ownership as a viable solution to the UK’s housing crisis.
Bjorn Howard, Group CEO of Aster Group, said: “There is no doubt that we are in a period of unprecedented political upheaval and, quite rightly, all eyes are on our proposed withdrawal from the European Union. But while Brexit remains front and centre of the debate over the next few weeks, we must not forget the other big issue of our generation. There remains an obsession to find a silver bullet that will solve the housing crisis, including a number of new proposed models for shared ownership. But many are overlooking the solution that sits right in front of us. It’s vital that any new government remains committed to a better working housing market and we would urge all parties to work together to make shared ownership central to this.”
In addition to the increase in shared ownership homes over the past two years, Aster Group is projected to hit 5,000 shared ownership homes by 2024 as part of its growing portfolio that already stands at more than 31,000 homes of a range of tenures – a trend that reflects the rising popularity of the product and its viability as a mainstream tenure.
But the industry needs support if shared ownership is to reach its potential. A lack of understanding – among both the general public and shared ownership home owners – was identified by Aster Group as a key challenge facing the sector in the research carried out last year. In its report Another Way, 60 per cent of those surveyed did not know they could move from their existing shared ownership property to another one, and while 73 per cent understood the concept of staircasing – the process of gradually growing an equity stake in the property – only one in 10 had attempted it. This is despite 62 per cent of shared ownership buyers confirming they would recommend the product to a friend.
Amy Nettleton, assistant development director – sales and marketing at Aster Group, added: “We know shared ownership works and we have the statistics to prove it. What we need now, from any new government, is a commitment to build on this by channelling further resource into this area of the housing market. Housing has to meet a local need, particularly for those people across our villages, towns and cities who are in desperate need of more affordable homes, and shared ownership is a vital part of that solution.With more resource, a commitment from Whitehall to champion the product and a continued focus on simplifying the way we talk about it, I’m confident it will form part of the answer we’re looking for.”
In its request, Aster Group has urged politicians to focus on three key areas:
- A commitment to existing home ownership products, not a change or an introduction of new ones;
- A focus on education to help raise awareness of shared ownership, so more people understand how it can help them into a permanent secure home with a stake in the housing market; and
A simplification of the language used around shared ownership to help educate consumers.