Young singles and childless couples have been the main beneficiaries of the affordable housing construction boom in recent years. The vast majority of new-build homes have been small flats, with a big gap in the market for houses or larger apartments suitable for families.
Now it is the turn of young families to benefit as housing associations and private developers boost supply.
'Often families and couples expecting a child believe they won't be able to afford the sort of property they want, but shared ownership makes it possible'
One factor driving this trend is the alarming level of overcrowding. A survey out this week reveals that 35 per cent of children share a bedroom with one or two siblings. Boris Johnson has launched an "overcrowding action plan" and is working with boroughs to halve the number of people living in cramped housing conditions in London (currently about 207,000 households).
One initiative aims to persuade "under-occupiers" — typically middle-aged council tenants whose children have flown the nest — to downsize and free up the larger homes.
Not so many years ago young couples moving out of flats to bring up families were at least able to settle into cheaper inner-city Victorian terrace houses before trading up to a bigger property where they could live through their childrens' school years. From about 2000 onwards, this became impossible for many because of spiralling property prices and a shortage of affordable new-build houses.
In London, three-bedroom terrace houses start at about £300,000 and rise to about £675,000, according to estate agent Winkworth, which has branches all across the capital. But even the lower figure is beyond the price range of many family buyers (a household income of almost £100,000 is necessary), which is why shared ownership is a popular solution, offering maisonettes, larger flats and new homes, some with allotments and secure play parks for children.
Family Mosaic specialises in this sector and is offering part-buy, part-rent homes in well-connected parts of London where the entry price is less than £150,000. Lauren Nicholson, marketing director, says: "Often families and couples expecting a child believe they won't be able to afford the sort of property they want, but shared ownership makes it possible. And with the low mortgage rates currently available, now is a good time to upsize."
New family homes in a fashionable part of Islington have been launched. At Highbury Park and Highbury Quadrant, three-bedroom maisonettes cost £138,750 for a 30 per cent share (full price £462,500). Coming soon is the Harper Square scheme in the sought-after SE1 postcode.
As well as building new family homes, the association is refurbishing older houses when they become available and selling them on a shared-ownership basis. Call 020 7089 1315.
Circle Living is promoting family housing at the leafy suburb Innova Park, Enfield. Two-bedroom houses are on offer at £57,000 for 25 per cent (full price £230,000). Call 07824 409705 or visit innovapark.org.
A former dairy in Gilbert Street, Enfield, has made way for a scheme of 62 homes, a mix of apartments and houses, for outright sale and shared ownership, through Origin housing association. Called The Mews, houses cost from £149,950 to £274,950. Call 0800 068 8990 for details.
In Hayes, one of the cheaper outer London areas, new three-bedroom townhouses cost from £299,000 at Barratt's Arena development, close to where a new Crossrail station will open in 2016. Call 0845 5390115.
Wholesale redevelopment of former council estates provides an opportunity to create a wide mix of housing, including family-size accommodation. At Acton Gardens, Ealing, a quarter of the 2,350 new homes being built are larger properties, including three-and four-bedroom apartments and four-bedroom houses. Visit lqgroup.org.uk.
Woodberry Park in Stoke Newington will eventually have 4,600 new homes — a mix of open-market and affordable properties. Genesis housing association has launched the first shared-ownership homes. Three-bedroom apartments cost from £270,000 (£75,000 for the minimum 25 per cent share) and four-bedroom apartments from £340,000 (or £85,000). Call 0800 954 0078.