Shared ownership in York

A report to a meeting taking place this week reveals that in quarter 1 (April – June 2019) “within the Shared Ownership Scheme, the Council has acquired one property and sold equity shares in three properties”.

The York Council is investing heavily in promoting shared ownership homes in the City

The target is to purchase 23 properties by the end of 2019/20 and sell the same amount.

“Capital receipts from the equity sales are to be reinvested into the shared ownership programme, as such the budget is to be increased by £289k at quarter 1 and the same amount is to be re-profiled to 2020/21 for future purchases”.

The report comes a few days after it was revealed that the Council has completed only 10 shared ownership deals in the 3 years leading up to April 2019

This week’s report fails to identify any open market purchase of properties which could be added to the Council Housing pool.

York Council shifts only 10 shared ownership homes in 3 years

The York Council’s much hyped “shared ownership” programme has provided homes for only 10 families during the last 3 years.

Council marketing campaign

The figures are revealed in a response to a Freedom of Information request.

All the 10 homes were purchased on the open market. The scheme encourages residents to identify a property for sale before asking the Council to purchase it for them. The family then buys part of the property on a mortgage while renting the rest.  

The Council has decided to set the rent well below commercial levels, effectively providing the occupier with a taxpayer subsidy.

The only recorded discussion of the strategy, which will see a large proportion of the 600 new homes being built by the Council over the next few years allocated to shared ownership, came at a private meeting. click for details

The York Council admits that priority for shared ownership homes cannot be given to those on the housing waiting list. Nor can it restrict availability to existing York residents. It blames “Homes England” for these restrictions. These seem perverse restrictions given that the housing list is, and has been for many years, the accepted way of determining housing need and priority in the City.

The Council said that, “A key ambition (of shared ownership) is to support key workers by marketing housing for them. Key workers include teachers, health and social care workers, the police, the fire service and others working in the public sector”. It can only do so through a direct marketing campaign. It is unclear how many of the homes have gone to “key workers”

Slow going on “affordable” housing in York?

 Other social landlords have provided 30 shared ownership properties over the last 3 years. Of these, 29 have been “new build”.

By contrast, only 45 additional homes have been added to the Council housing stock since 2016.

Only 4 of these were purchased on the open market.

The open market purchase of homes, to supplement the rental stock, has been the flagship policy of the Liberal Democrats for over a decade. It only became a practical option 4 years ago when restrictions on the use of income from Council house sales were relaxed.

There are over 1700 applicants on the housing waiting list in York

Meanwhile the Council has taken on extra staff to manage its new build housing programme. They have so far failed to report how many shared ownership deals have been completed by the new team during the current financial year.

We think it is time for the Council to have a candid public debate about the demand for shared ownership and other forms of housing tenure in the City.

Housing – Is the Councils policy working?

Statistics for the last available quarter (Jan – Mar) reveal that the number of house building starts in York fell.

Those attending a recent housing scrutiny committee, will have  witnessed a mundane exchange about obstacles to increasing the amount of social housing in the City. Most comment centred on the lack of skilled labour in the sector, with a joint plan with York College the only idea cited to address the issue. Historically, of course, such skills have been imported from other parts of the country, and indeed Europe, to meet peaks in the house building programme.

Other questions remain unanswered.

While the Council policy of purchasing empty homes on the open market – to add to the Council housing pool – has been a limited success, other “innovations” have stalled.

There are around 200 people on the “self-build” register in the City. Plots were allocated for their use at the new Lowfields development. It turns out that the Council has made no progress in finding buyers for the plots. This is another worrying factor on this controversial development where neighbouring residents have given a high priority to having the site development completed quickly. Self build is one of the slowest ways of providing a house, so hopes that the builders would leave Lowfields within 3 years are fading.

Nearby the future of the Yorspace communal living experiment remains in doubt. The Councils decision to sell a plot to them at a discount is likely to face a further challenge if and when contracts are exchanged.

These are both relatively small initiatives, though, compared to the Council’s decision to go big on shared ownership programmes.

Shared ownership allows people to buy a share of between 25% and 75% of a home from a landlord, usually the council or a housing association, and rent the remaining share at a reduced rent. Of the 600 affordable housing units the Council expects to build over the next few years, almost half will be designated as “shared ownership”.

Support for shared ownership came mainly from former Conservative Councillors at the authority (mostly not re-elected in May). Ironically they argued that the scheme would avoid the pitfall of “right to buy” applications which could impact on the rental availability of any new Council houses built, almost as soon as they were completed.

But the early signs are that there is only a very limited market for shared ownership tenure in York. Few of the 1700 or so who are on the housing waiting list seem to see this as a solution to their problems. (Many are older people seeking to “downsize”)

The Council offers to help individuals (with incomes of less than £80,000 a year) to buy homes on the open market and then allocate them to shared ownership. It has not published any figures which show how many have taken up this offer.

The Council also has some new build and conversion properties which it markets itself as shared ownership. It says on its web site that it does not have any such properties available at present. Nevertheless, it continues to advertise properties on Cemetery Road.

Again, no performance stats have been published by the Council. Councillors need to question how the shared ownership programme is impacting on the housing waiting list.

They may also wish to question further whether the Council is right to set up its own development and sales arm.

Local estate agents are better qualified to find buyers and renters.

More cheap homes to buy – new scheme launched by York Council

Shared home ownership scheme

Following on from yesterdays news about a £112,500 flat being sold in Skeldergate, there is more good news for aspiring home owners in York today.

An innovative new scheme to help more people afford a home of their own in York is being launched!

City of York Council’s new shared ownership scheme invites applicants to find their own home on the open market or choose from four high quality newly-converted apartments to buy with the council.

In York, high demand and low supply has increased house prices beyond the reach of many residents. With average house prices nine times local average wages the scheme for 65 homes is run in partnership with Homes England until early 2021, to help eligible York residents get on to the property ladder.

To be eligible, applicants must:

  • have a combined household income of less that £80,000 per year
  • be first time buyers, or former home owners, or military or ex military personnel
  • be unable to afford to purchase a suitable home at market value
  • not own a share of, or own any other property (unless a shared ownership home that you wish to move from)
  • Have a minimum 5% deposit and be able to cover the cost of buying a property
  • Have secured a mortgage offer.

Eligible people can choose a property from the open housing market. This must be:

  • within the price guidelines set out in an offer letter – usually for no more than £200,000
  • within the City of York boundary area
  • not a listed building or in a listed building
  • in good mortgage-able condition
  • without any previous shared ownership grant funding attached
  • priced in line with an independent valuation.

If eligible and interested, first get a mortgage offer from a lender then apply via www.helptobuy.gov.uk – run by Yorkshire Housing. Please state on your application that you wish to buy with City of York Council and your details will be passed on to us.

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Progress in boosting York cheaper homes initiative

The Council has recently agreed to purchase several vacant homes in the City. It is part of a plan, tabled several years ago, by the LibDems which will see property bought on the open market to  ease the housing crisis.

Grange Lane

The funding to purchase empty homes will mainly come from the surplus accumulated over many years on the Council housing account.

The properties will be available on a part rent/part mortgage basis for lower paid local workers.

Typically schemes like this allow couples to get on the housing ladder and gradually move on to own the whole of the property.

Homes purchased recently include ones in Foxwood Lane, Kingsway West, Troutbeck, Teal Drive and Grange Lane

Several of the properties are former Council houses which were sold under “right to buy” legislation. They are a mixture of 2 and 3 bedroomed properties.

Initially the homes are likely to be offered to those on the housing waiting list and existing tenants.

The initiative will reduce pressure to build on greenfield sites.

An independent appraised of shared ownership can be found by clicking here