Only 60% of public understand Shared Ownership

A new report is calling for a government publicity campaign to boost public awareness and perceptions of shared ownership schemes.

The proposals, contained in a report by housebuilder and landlord Aster Group, include housing associations working more closely to improve the public’s understanding of shared ownership and agreeing that it supports their social ethos.

The report, Another way: How shared ownership can improve the UK housing market, also commissioned a national survey which lays bare the public’s lack of understanding of shared ownership.

There are 200,000 shared ownership homes in the UK. Despite misconceptions, it is one of the fastest-growing types of housing in Britain, with 25,000 units either under construction or for sale.

The survey, conducted by YouGov, reveals that 81% of people think the UK housing market is unaffordable for first-time buyers. Yet only 60% of people say they understand shared ownership, and half (51%) didn’t know that banks and building societies offer mortgages for it.

Some 44% of people believe the government should do more to raise the profile and understanding of buying a house through shared ownership. Currently, one in ten (9%) confuse it with Help to Buy, the state-backed scheme that offers interest-free loans for first-time buyers.

Bjorn Howard, Group CEO of Aster, said, “Everyone agrees the UK is facing a housing crisis which is getting worse as more and more people are priced out of buying or renting a home.

“Owner occupation is held up as an aspiration that millions are struggling to achieve. However, there is another choice that many renters and potential housebuyers should consider. Shared ownership blends ownership and renting and can be a great option for many locked out of the renting and ownership markets. It provides life-long security without the huge upfront costs for a deposit that homebuyers face when they use traditional ownership routes.

“Our research highlights clear concern among the British public about how the housing market freezes out first-time buyers, but also a lack of understanding about the role shared ownership could play in changing that. This informs our clear and workable recommendations for everyone involved in providing shared ownership homes.”

The five recommendations in Aster’s report are:

  1. Building a sector-wide consensus that shared ownership supports and does not conflict with the ethos of housing associations, some of whom are ambivalent about offering it alongside their traditional social rent.
  2. Housing associations working together to raise the profile and understanding of shared ownership. This will help to standardise and enhance the product and customer experience while helping to position it as a first choice option alongside buying using a traditional mortgage and renting.
  3. Reforming the shared ownership application process, making it easier to staircase – the process by which people increase the amount of equity they own in their shared ownership home – and ‘port’ their mortgage to an open-market property.
  4. The Government enhancing the shared ownership brand with an awareness campaign to engage and educate the public, building on the success of the highly-publicised Help to Buy scheme.
  5. The sector and government working together to improve the central web-based portal for home-seekers, to make it clearer and simpler and offer localised information on the best options based on personal circumstances.

Amy Nettleton, assistant director – sales and marketing at Aster, added, “Shared ownership is already helping thousands of people every year, but it could be improved and the reward for this is huge – it’s an aspirational solution that allows people to buy a stake in a home, with the option to scale as they want to.

“Our proposals would enhance the shared ownership product and, through cross-sector working, we can help to drive demand for it across the country, not just in big cities. This is important in pushing housebuilders to develop more shared ownership homes, as well as encouraging more banks and building societies to provide mortgages that support people in accessing it.”

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