New report suggests shared ownership is the poor relation of Help to Buy

YouGov research of over 200 people in shared ownership schemes reveals the barriers preventing widespread adoption  

 - Barriers to full ownership – only 10% had grown their equity stakes, with 63% of those that hadn’t citing affordability

 - Missed opportunities – more than half (52%) weren’t aware that they can move between shared ownership properties

 - No support – just 14% had received information about shared ownership from the government, with half relying on housing associations

 - Customer advocacy – 62% would recommend buying through shared ownership to friends and family, 70% want to see new build targets and 59% want more such properties in their area

Shared ownership suffers from a lack of government support that leaves it as the ‘poor relation’ to Help to Buy,’ according to housing association Aster Group after the launch of its latest study in conjunction with YouGov. 

It found that people who part-own their homes through shared ownership schemes considering their next step on the property ladder are either held back from growing their equity stakes or unaware of the potential options open to them. 

The study revealed that only 10% of those in shared ownership properties had successfully grown their equity stakes – a process known as ‘staircasing’. Of this group, 63% had cited affordability issues from holding them back. 

But the report also found that people in shared ownership schemes are largely unaware of the options available to them when considering their next step. While 73% had heard of and understood staircasing, 52% didn’t know that they could move from their existing home into another shared ownership property. Just over a quarter (27%) were aware but didn’t know how to. 

Aster says such widespread lack of understanding is holding back the spread of shared ownership markets and artificially restricting the options available to those already in part-owned properties who may feel that equity growth is their only choice. 

Bjorn Howard, Group CEO of Aster, said: “There is an outdated view of shared ownership that it is simply a stepping stone to buying a house outright. While that is a route many will take, and one that still needs more backing, it is wrong to simply view shared ownership as a kind of housing limbo land. It offers people long-term security, a meaningful equity stake in the property market and the flexibility to make housing choices to suit their lifestyles. 

“Those in shared ownership properties can improve them, to add value, or move to different ones – upsizing, downsizing or relocating just as any homeowner would. The fact that more than half of those in shared ownership today didn’t know this underlines the demand for more education from the housing industry, government and housing associations.”   

Just 14% of people in shared ownership schemes had received information about the asset class from the government, suggesting more could be done to promote it and how it works. Half had heard from housing associations and 42% from internet research – excluding the government’s own shared ownership portal. 

Most of those in shared ownership (62%) are advocates of the scheme as they would be likely to recommend it to their friends and family. Clear majorities added to the sense that the government could be doing more to support its growth with 70% wanting to see annual targets set for delivering new shared ownership units and 59% wanting more shared ownership properties in their areas. 

Amy Nettleton, assistant director – sales and marketing at Aster, added: “While the government has rightly heavily promoted schemes like Help to Buy, prompting mass awareness, our survey shows that it’s not doing enough to back shared ownership. 

“This is a missed opportunity as clearly, for those that have made the step, the decision has been one they would happily recommend to others. They also back our own calls to see the introduction of delivery targets for more shared ownership properties. 

“Beyond education, there are other policy challenges for the government to address that were sadly missing from its recent Green Paper. Stamp duty relief is not available to some shared ownership properties and 40% of those we spoke to that had ‘staircased’ said lowering or removing the threshold would have made it easier for them."

“Shared ownership is designed to support people who can’t afford to own their home outright to build equity and gain the security of ownership. It seems counter intuitive that there isn’t equality of opportunity with the housing policy initiatives designed to solve the UK’s housing crisis. Let’s not forget that the average salary of a shared ownership buyer, at £30,000, is above what most people earn.” 

Aster, which owns and manages 30,000 homes across the south of England, currently has 2,249 shared ownership properties in its portfolio. It aims for shared ownership to represent a third of its 11,800-home development pipeline. 

The full Another Way Part Two: Helping Shared Ownership Thrive report can be accessed here.

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