FirstSteps: a new way to get on the property ladder

Now life should be a lot easier for London's first-time buyers
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Queen Mary's Place, Roehampton
£50,265: for a 25 per cent share of an apartment at Hurlington Court, part of the Queen Mary's Place scheme in Roehampton. Call 0844 470 4645
From this week anyone searching for an affordable home in the capital will find the process easier because of a new website, set up by London's 40 housing associations and backed by Mayor Boris Johnson.

'About 75 per cent of eligible Londoners wrongly believe the maximum qualifying salary is £30,000 (half the actual limit)'

FirstSteps ( replaces the last government's confusing Housing Options, a "gateway" scheme for several competing low-cost home-ownership initiatives.

The new scheme is straightforward but 75 per cent of eligible Londoners wrongly believe the maximum qualifying salary for a single person is £30,000 (half the actual limit).

And 50 per cent mistakenly believe they have to be a key worker to qualify, whereas most schemes are open to anyone with earnings between £20,000 and £60,000. Typically, applicants must have at least £4,000 in savings to cover the cost of buying a home. This is in addition to the minimum five to 10 per cent deposit required by a mortgage lender.

Housing associations expect more than 30,000 applications a year from first-time buyers, and more in September when a new top-up deposit scheme - providing interest-free loans worth 20 per cent of a new-build property's value - comes into force (Londoners earning up to £73,500 a year will qualify for this).

Individual associations continue to market their own developments. London & Quadrant, for example, has a rent-to-buy deal called Up2U, offering a discounted rent (80 per cent of the market rate) until you can afford to buy.

Affinity Sutton is promoting new shared-ownership flats at Hammersmith Central, where the minimum required deposit is five per cent (or £6,375). Prices start at £154,000 for a 40 per cent share.

Jason Bond
A Putney bus driver, Jason Bond, 34, bought a 25 per cent key-worker share of a flat at Queen Mary's Place. "I had nearly given up hope of ever buying," he says
At Fairmont House, part of a new-build complex next to Canada Water Tube station in Southwark, a smaller-than-usual 25 per cent share can be purchased. Full prices from £285,000. Here, too, only a five per cent deposit is required. Call 0300 100 0300.

Queen Mary's Place in Roehampton is maturing into one of south-west London's best addresses. This new 14-acre estate of 450 homes is set in listed walled gardens, with a prized 18th-century mansion at the centre. Homes are laid out in handsome squares, courtyards and crescents, and include tasteful blocks of affordable housing.

Previously, only people living or working in Wandsworth borough qualified for the shared-ownership flats. However, Thames Valley Housing has widened the qualifying criteria for the last phase, called Hurlington Court, to include Sutton, Merton, Kingston, Richmond, Lambeth and Croydon boroughs. Prices start at £50,265 for a 25 per cent share (full price £202,500). This is for a studio. Call 0844 470 4645.

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