First-time buyers: Lewisham's low-rent route to getting on the property ladder

A cheap-rents housing scheme in south London aims to help first-timers a chance to escape the dreaded deposit trap...
The deposit trap is a problem most first-time buyers know well — without the assistance of the Bank of Mum and Dad, it is often impossible to even contemplate joining the property ladder.
Short of plotting a diamond heist to raise the average £69,000 required for a typical first-time deposit in the capital — as calculated in a recent study by Savills — buyers could instead turn their attention to an under-the-radar south-east London suburb, where a solution is being offered.

Discount deal
Housing association L&Q’s latest scheme, Goldcrest House in Lee High Road, Lewisham, offers would-be buyers the chance to rent a one- or two-bedroom flat at a subsidised rate — 20 per cent less than for new-build properties being rented commercially in the area.
This, it hopes, will give them the chance to start saving for a deposit.
Under the rules of the scheme, known as UpToYou, tenants can stay in the property as long as they want and can then either move on to another rental or buy themselves a property, shared-ownership or otherwise,  further down the line. 
L&Q has 29 homes on offer, some overlooking the River Quaggy and most with either balconies or terraces, which will be ready to move into next month. Prices start from £930 per calendar month, or £1,150 per month for a two-bedroom flat, and priority will be given to people already living in Lewisham.
The nearest station is Lewisham, around five minutes’ walk from Goldcrest House. Trains to Cannon Street or Charing Cross both take around 15 minutes, and those heading for Canary Wharf can also pick up the Docklands Light Railway. An annual season ticket costs £1,284.
Green fields: the public can enjoy Manor House Gardens
Things to consider
If all this sounds like a complete no-brainer, then there are some downsides to consider. The first is that rents have been set in line with new-build homes in Lee — you could find a better bargain if you are happy to live in an older property.
Another downside is that the area is a regeneration zone for a reason. The Leegate Shopping Centre has been dubbed the worst in Britain, with just over a third of its shops empty. Lewisham Shopping Centre, close to the station, is far more vibrant, but it lacks the kind of quirky independent shops which make retail therapy a pleasure and not a chore. And since work is under way on a six-year project to regenerate the town centre, traffic is horrendous at the moment and the area is not looking its best.
While there are some decent pubs and restaurants on the doorstep, they can be counted on your fingers — most locals head to Blackheath or Hither Green on a night out.
Roxanne Halliday, L&Q’s sales negotiator for the project, has lived in the area and says Goldcrest’s big advantage is that it is close to everything — open space, transport and shopping.
“The traffic problems will end when the regeneration is finished. You can get lots of ethnic foods and it is very diverse and friendly,” she says.
Stocking up: the market in Lewisham offers fresh produce
The knowledge: Lee, south London 
  • Past: Lee’s local stately home, the Manor House, was built by the founders of the Barings Bank. It is now a library.
  • Future: developer St Modwen has applied for planning permission to regenerate the declining Leegate Shopping Centre, with new shops, offices and homes.
  • Trivial pursuit: the name Lee derives from Leah, which means clearing in the wood.
  • What it costs: an average home costs £391,277, up 6.99 per cent in the past year, according to Zoopla. A two-bedroom flat costs about £1,287 a month.
  • First-time buy: immaculate two-bedroom flat in an impressive period house on Burnt Ash Hill, on the market for £350,000 with Housesimple.
  • Landmarks: the tiny but very charming Boone’s Chapel on Lee High Road. The chapel dates from 1682 but fell into disuse after the Second World War. It has since been restored and opens for exhibitions.
  • Eat: cake washed down with excellent coffee at With Jam and Bread, also on Lee High Road.
  • Drink: at the Dacre Arms, an old-school neighbourhood pub.
  • Buy: basics at Lewisham Shopping Centre.
  • Walk: the wilds of Blackheath, a mile up the road.

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