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Guest blog: Is this the moment to rethink our approach to affordable housing?

Originally published in Society Matters magazine.

By Matt Bartle, Director of Products, Leeds Building Society
 

Events of recent months have reminded us all of the value we place on our homes and communities, and reinforced how mutual support among colleagues, friends and neighbours makes a real difference in challenging times.

In 2020 our homes have had to adapt and become temporary workplaces and classrooms. We’ve also connected more with our communities, and according to nationwide research* for Leeds Building Society, eight out of 10 people say they are talking to their neighbours more as a result of the pandemic and one in four feel community spirit has improved.

There’s no doubt coronavirus has caused a seismic shift in all our lives. However, as we map out the route ahead, there’s a real opportunity to consider how our industry can help more people have the homes they want, whether that’s to rent or buy.

A fresh approach

The reality remains that many struggle to get on the property ladder and it’s clear the UK needs innovative approaches to deliver more affordable homes for people to buy or rent.

A barrier for many first-time buyers is the size of the deposit needed to get a foot on the housing ladder. As a result, shared ownership - which can significantly reduce the size of deposit needed – is attracting renewed interest from Government and policy makers, who want to increase opportunities for home ownership.

Considering what we can do to make schemes such as shared ownership better understood and more widely used could reframe the market. Bringing down the size of deposit can make the scheme particularly suitable for first-time buyers, as it offers an alternative to typical residential purchase using a higher-LTV mortgage, a sector particularly hit by the pandemic.

There is also the potential for customers to increase their share of the property over time. Yet, despite being established for over 40 years, shared ownership remains underused.

A You Gov study** commissioned by Leeds Building Society as part of research into future needs of shared ownership as it reached its 40th anniversary, found housing associations said the main barriers to being able to support more home buyers included a lack of consumer knowledge or understanding of the scheme and how it works.

Building the country out of a downturn

It isn’t enough, to simply build homes; as a country we need to look at the bigger picture and ensure we’re addressing need. Taking a more holistic approach means we can consider the types of properties our communities need longer-term; and whether enough is being done to increase the supply of affordable homes in the right locations.

By helping our members into the home they want, we can also have a positive impact on our local communities. Events of recent months have repeatedly reminded us how much we all rely on others and how collaboration and co-operation can help us to reach what might seem unachievable goals.

Now feels like the right time to pause, reset and rethink our approach to housing. Harnessing this momentum and putting in place a blueprint for the future could mean many more will be able to have the home they want.

Ends

*A UK survey sought the views of 948 people at the end of August 2020.

**Qualitative research comprising eight 45-60-minute in-depth interviews with senior staff in eight housing associations across England was conducted by YouGov on behalf of Leeds Building Society.

For more on the research visit https://bit.ly/36VWY8j

Posted by Joseph Thompson on 02 February 2021