Shared Ownership in the Local Authority Sector
As the renaissance of development activity by local authorities continues to gather pace, shared ownership development is starting to come into the conversation. This really should be no surprise, because although assisted home ownership schemes have come and gone over the years, shared ownership has consistently been helping people get on the home ownership ladder. And while there were some co-ownership type schemes dating back to the late 1960s, it was a local authority that gave birth to shared ownership as we know it. Birmingham City Council’s 50:50 Scheme was launched in 1975 and is widely acknowledged in the sector as the forefather of contemporary shared ownership.
With more than 35 years passed since that groundbreaking initiative in the Midlands, shared ownership is as relevant today as it always has been and arguably more so in this age of austerity. While there will still be the debate about what is the greatest need and where resources should be targeted, whatever the tenure being looked at, the root of our housing crisis stems from the fact that we are not building enough houses. With shared ownership we get more bang for our buck- we can just create more homes with the resources available because the customer is funding part of it. In days gone by, shared ownership would not have found favour amongst some local authorities because they wanted to concentrate their resources on those in the most perceived need. However, the sector has matured over the years and now acknowledges that the desire for home ownership in Britain is so strong, we cannot ignore that desire. Rightly or wrongly, like warm beer and cricket, homeownership is part of our DNA.
Local authorities all over the country are starting to embrace shared ownership as they move into development. One example of this is Cherries Court, Bournemouth. Although Bournemouth Borough Council restarted their development activity a few years ago, Cherries Court, completed in December 2017 was its first shared ownership development. There were over 150 enquiries for the eleven 2 and 3 bed family homes, and they were all reserved off plan 10 weeks before practical completion. Most purchasers were moving in only one working day after practical completion. Gary Josey, Director of Housing and Communities at Bournemouth Borough Council, is in no doubt which direction Bournemouth will be moving:
“At Bournemouth, we need more housing of ALL tenures. Not only does it address a pressing need, but housing development stimulates the economy and ferments regeneration. With the overwhelming success of Cherries Court, shared ownership is certainly going to play an important part in our development programme as we move forward.”
So rather than shunning a tenure that has undoubtedly helped thousands to home ownership since the Birmingham initiative in 1975, now is a good time for local authorities to embrace shared ownership and include it in their development programs.
In fact, local authorities have an advantage over traditional housing associations when it comes to ensuring their shared ownership developments benefit their local communities. By developing outside a Registered Programme, local authorities can mandate that purchasers have a local connection. This is in contrast to housing associations where, since a ministerial announcement in 2016, it has not been permitted to insist on such conditions if the homes are being built as part of a Registered Programme, (which with very few exceptions, is the case). We will look at this in more detail later in this article.
Sales and Marketing of shared ownership is very different to allocating homes for social or affordable rent, but it is an essential element of modern development within the social sector. In this article, we will be looking at the full story of selling shared ownership, to demystify it for new entrant local authorities, and to outline where SDS can help local authorities embrace it as part of their development programme.