Calls for shared property ownership in the UK to be expanded

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December 3, 2013 12:25 AM EST

A major expansion of newly built shared ownership could help low and modest income working families across the UK onto the property ladder, while keeping their housing costs affordable, according to a new analysis from an independent think tank.

The report, from the Resolution Foundation, shows that shared ownership, where buyers purchase at least 25% of the equity in a home and pay a low rent on the remaining share owned by a Housing Association, is affordable for a couple with one child on £22,000 in 87% of local authorities in Britain, assuming they spend no more than 35% of their net income on housing costs.

The report also show that the latest phase of Help to Buy, which provides a government guarantee on 95% mortgages, is really geared towards households on middle and higher incomes whose main barrier to home ownership is raising a large deposit rather than meeting high monthly mortgage costs.

For low and modest income working families, while it is the case that Help to Buy greatly reduces the time it takes to save for a deposit in most local authorities, the policy still leaves monthly mortgage costs unaffordable across the great majority of the country, the report says.

For example, a couple with one child with net income of £22,000, which is the just over a third of the way up the income distribution, living in a two bed home in Cambridge would have to spend 85% of net income or £1,557 per month on meeting monthly the costs of a 95% compared to 42% of net income or £772 per month for shared ownership.

In the London borough of Hounslow, they would have to spend 76% of net income or £1,395 per month on meeting the monthly costs of a 95% mortgage compared to 38% of net income or £692 per month for shared ownership. And in Exeter, they would have to spend 53% of net income or £970 per month on meeting the monthly costs of a 95% mortgage compared to 26% of net income or £481 per month for shared ownership.

The report points out that shared ownership is more affordable for low income families because they initially take out a mortgage on only a share of a home not the entire property and pay an annual rent of no more than 3% on the remaining share, with annual rent rises in line with RPI plus 0.5%. While they own less equity, their payments are more predictable and they are less at risk from changes in the mortgage market. Shared owners can claim Housing Benefit on the rent but this is rare.

However shared ownership currently accounts for only a very small number of homes, some 174,000 in England. Related innovations such as rent to buy and home purchase plans have also so far failed to achieve scale.

The Resolution Foundation report says that with growing numbers of families stuck in the private rental sector, shared ownership needs to become the mainstream fourth...

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