Much has been written about London’s “deposit trap” created by the impossible sums banks sometimes expect first-time buyers to come up with. Even those eligible for affordable housing schemes can find themselves tripping over the fact that the average shared-ownership deposit in the capital is £13,000.
Given sky-high rents and ever increasing public transport fares, this can push even supposedly “affordable” options out of reach. An alternative is to opt for a rent-to-buy scheme, like the deal on offer at the new Academy Central development, being built at the former campus of the University of East London in Barking.
Housing association L&Q is offering 53 one- and two-bedroom flats that will be let at subsidised rates — about £800 a month for one-bedroom homes and £1,000 a month for the two-bedroom properties. This, calculates L&Q, is 20 per cent below local market rates. The idea is that lower rents will give tenants a breathing space to save for a deposit and eventually buy a property of their own. How much they save is up to them — their finances are not monitored while they are living in the property. The homes will be available from early this month, and there is no time limit on the scheme — residents are free to continue renewing their leases indefinitely.
Other than the financial incentive there is much to admire about Academy Central, not least its elegant, airy design by Assael Architecture. Each flat has its own balcony or
terrace, and interiors are contemporary. “The key selling point with Academy Central is that it is a new community,” says Olivia Scrimshaw, assistant director of marketing at L&Q. “It’s newly landscaped, well-maintained, and there are no hereditary problems in the area.”
Barking Town Hall: the town is Academy Central's closest point for shops and the Tube
The development is sandwiched between Goodmayes Park and Mayesbrook Park, so there’s lots of local green space, and the nearest Tube is Barking, in Zone 4, which gets you into the City in half an hour. The shops in Barking itself are rather dull. However, the glittering Westfield Stratford City retail mecca isn’t far away, and the ongoing Barking Riverside development, with more than 10,000 homes, could stimulate some new arrivals.
Culture comes from the Broadway Theatre and Eastbury Manor House, a National Trust-owned Elizabethan merchant’s home which has a pretty garden and tea room. But as Scrimshaw admits, the relatively far-flung location will deter some buyers, even though there is a lot of regeneration going on.
Even subsidised rents such as those at Academy Central are not peanuts in London. “It is still quite expensive,” says Scrimshaw, who agrees that buyers considering saving for a deposit from scratch could have a very long wait to get on to the ladder.