THE National Housing Federation (NHF) has launched a national marketing campaign to encourage more people to buy a shared ownership home.
Ostensibly billed as a public information campaign to “boost the public’s understanding” of shared ownership, it is nevertheless clearly focused on driving sales for its member housing associations.
Under the shared ownership model, people buy a portion of the home – usually 25% but as much as 75% – and pay rent on the rest. In theory, these partial owners can then ‘staircase’ – that is, buy further shares of the property – all the way to full ownership, as their circumstances permit.
Shared ownership has been around for more than 40 years, but for much of that time it was a specialised niche product. Over the last 15 years or so, however, it has steadily been pushed towards the mainstream and is now one of the main routes into “affordable” home ownership.
The advantage of shared ownership, according to its proponents, is that it creates a more affordable route into ownership. This is because the deposit and the mortgage needed to cover the value of the share being bought is much lower, as is the rent charged on the remainder, than would be the case for a 100% purchase (or rental). It’s not without its critics, of course; shared ownership has been accused of being little more than buying an assured tenancy.
All the same, housing associations have played a significant role in developing and delivering the model, especially since 2010 when the then Conservative-led coalition government slashed capital grant for the delivery of new social rented housing, in favour of targeting resources towards much greater support of home ownership.
Since then, shared ownership has become a significant part of the housing association sector’s property development portfolio; some would say to the further detriment of much-needed social rented housing.
The spur, of course, has been the availability of government funding to support development of such properties, courtesy of schemes such as the current Shared Ownership & Affordable Homes Programme (SOAHP) 2016-21. A further driver has been the continuing decline in rates of home ownership among young people, typically first-time buyers, families and people who are otherwise struggling to raise the large deposits required, as prices have risen, and the housing crisis has worsened.
“Over the last decade, it’s become so much harder to get a foot on the housing ladder,” said Ella Cheney, the NHF’s shared ownership programme manager. “Shared ownership is a great potential solution, but the problem is that too many people just don’t know about it.
“When people have heard of it, there’s a lot of misunderstanding about the product. We knew the whole sector was keen to overcome these barriers, and that’s what this campaign sets out to do.
“This nationwide advertising campaign will help to raise public awareness and understanding, making sure that people know shared ownership could be just what they need to take that much-needed step onto the housing ladder.”
The NHF says it has developed the campaign over the last two years in partnership with more than 40 housing associations to help to develop and deliver a “clear, consistent way the sector talks about, and markets, shared ownership”. The campaign is based around a three-year advertising drive, covering print media, social media, and traditional outdoor advertising.
Meanwhile, participating housing associations will have access to a suite of advertising material to help them market their own shared ownership homes. As part of the package, the NHF has created a website, sharedownership.net to serve as an online ‘estate agent window’ to list such properties for sale right across the country.
Housing associations in England to date manage 320,000 shared ownership homes, and built more than 14,000 last year, according to the NHF. But it says that public awareness of the tenure “is not as high as it deserves to be”.
Many people also “misunderstand” the product, it says, with potential buyers being put off because they think they only own a few rooms in their home, or that they have to share with a stranger.
“For years the sector has developed their own shared ownership brands and been successful in selling thousands of homes all over the country,” said Amy Nettleton, chair of the campaign’s steering group. “But what keeps being said to us year after year is the high levels of confusion around the product. This is what we aim to tackle in the first phase of the campaign; we want shared ownership to be a conscious thought when people are looking to move home.”