First-time winners

Young Londoners are being offered big financial incentives to buy their first home in Westminster
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First-time buyers living or working in Westminster who have salaries below £60,000 a year are to get extra help finding a home in what is one of the capital’s most expensive areas.

Westminster Council is so concerned that middle-income earners are being priced out of the borough it has launched a new free service, Homeownership Westminster, to show them how they can buy in the area.

Houses and flats are available to buy under a range of government-funded schemes, says the council’s housing cabinet member Philippa Roe, but the complexity of some of the schemes leaves many potential applicants confused.

Many people living or working in the borough who would qualify for help remain under the impression
that they are not eligible, she adds.

'The Homeownership service aims to demystify the application process for first-time buyers'

Despite the recession, a typical two-bedroom flat in Westminster still costs about £500,000. This means that, without help, first-time buyers would need to be earning £70,000-plus to be in with a chance of buying even the smallest property available in the borough on the open market. The average salary of people working in the borough of Westminster is £35,000.

The Homeownership service, which is provided for Westminster by housing association Catalyst, aims to demystify the application process. First-time buyers are given full information about the types of affordable housing available in the borough, either to buy or to rent at a discount, as well as support in applying for the scheme they choose.

They can also get advice on how to improve their home-ownership prospects. Councillor Roe wants to encourage young middle-income earners to live in the area. “These are the people who are fundamental to the economy of Westminster,” she says. “We want to help them into home-ownership.”

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