Affordable housing has become an important part of the mainstream property market.
Gone are the days when it was just for key workers or people on low incomes. You can qualify for government-subsidised schemes if, as a couple, you earn up to £60,000.
With lenders reluctant to lend and London house prices still often prohibitive despite the crash, higher-income first-time buyers are increasingly seeing these schemes as the best route to home-ownership.
And affordable homes are starting to reflect this trend, with high specifications and upmarket facilities. You can even become the shared owner of a Docklands penthouse.
‘A significant percentage of buyers earn £60,000’
The average income of affordable-housing buyers in the capital is £25,000 to £35,000, according to London’s two HomeBuy agents, Metropolitan and Tower, and this is backed by research from two housing associations, Genesis and Notting Hill Home Ownership (NHHO).
Yet a significant percentage of buyers earn £40,000 to £60,000 and Genesis applicants have included architects, accountants and TV producers.
Mark Vaughan of NHHO says: “Prices have come down but if you’re on £40,000 or even more, you’re still going to struggle to buy a £300,000 Wandsworth flat.”
Indeed, London prices remain such a barrier to first-time buyers that Mayor Boris Johnson would like to see the £60,000 national maximum income increased to £72,000 for the capital. “It’s in the Housing Strategy,” says his spokesman, “but not yet signed off by the Government.”
'For higher earners, an equity loan scheme can be the answer'
The cost of renting in the private sector is one factor encouraging buyers to look at affordable homes. NHHO reckons that, on average, buying a 25 per cent share in a one-bedroom affordable home can work out more than £80 a week cheaper than renting the equivalent private sector property.
But the main factor favouring government schemes is, of course, the scarcity of mortgages and the size of deposits. For higher earners, an equity loan scheme can be the answer.
MyChoice HomeBuy, for instance, allows you to buy a home on the open market with an equity loan of up to 50 per cent. This not only means you have a smaller mortgage to raise, according to the Government’s Homes & Communities Agency: “It can also act as an effective deposit with some lenders.”
Metropolitan’s Moran confirms: “There are still some 100 per cent mortgages on MyChoice.” MyChoice allows buyers to access funds of up to £90,000 at 1.75 per cent a month to buy a property they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford,” says Farhaan Mirza of housing association Catalyst, which is in partnership with developer St George to offer the scheme on two London developments, Beaufort Park, Colindale, and Parkwest, near Heathrow.
Many shared-ownership properties are now designed to appeal to higher earners, such as Carew Grove, NHHO’s new Streatham development. “Historically the spec for shared ownership came out of social rented housing,” admits NHHO’s Vaughan. “But the buyers we’re trying to attract at Carew Grove are the same who might buy at private sale.”
And that Docklands penthouse? A minimum 25 per cent share of the £380,000 property at Wharfside Point North is available from Genesis Homes if your income is £44,000.
An equity loan of 50 per cent enabled software consultant Joel Berwitz to go for a second bedroom when he bought his £300,000 flat at St George’s Colindale development, Beaufort Park.
“I plan to rent out the second room to help repay my mortgage,” he says. Facilities he enjoys as a Beaufort Park resident include shops, restaurants, a concierge service and a gym.
* For all affordable homes, call 0845 230 8099, or visit www.housingoptions.co.uk
* Beaufort Park, Colindale: market values from £159,950; minimum income £20,000. Call 020 8511 8600, or visit www.beaufortpark.co.uk/homebuy.
* Carew Grove, Streatham: market values from £155,000, minimum share 25 per cent, minimum income £23,000. Call 020 8357 4444, or visit www.nottinghillhousing.org.uk.
* Chelsea Bridge Wharf, Battersea: market values from £300,000, minimum share 25 per cent, minimum income £29,000. Call 0800 883 0482, or visit www.genesishomes.org.uk.