The figures from the National Housing Federation’s latest report on the state of the housing market in the North West make sober reading.
A shortage of affordable homes is pushing house prices out of reach for the average person. This combined with low wage growth means that the average worker in Merseyside would need a staggering 42% pay rise, or an additional £10,030 a year, to secure an average mortgage. And only then if they have a 20% deposit.
We back the government’s efforts to ‘support hard-working aspiring homeowners’. In addition to offering homes for sale through shared ownership, we also offer homes for outright sale to first time buyers through Own Place. This is an innovative scheme which breathes new life into empty properties while offering a lifeline to those priced out of home ownership.
The beauty of Own Place is that because the properties are sold at a 25% discounted rate of market value, buyers only need to secure a 75% loan to value mortgage so no deposit is required. And while the average earnings now needed to afford a typical mortgage in Merseyside is £34,000, the average earnings of a typical Own Place buyer is just £16,500.
Own Place is a success story we are immensely proud of. Since the scheme launched, we’ve helped over 400 people onto the property ladder. But it is not a one size fits all solution.
The North West suffers from the highest number of empty homes in the country and we have focused our efforts in Merseyside, where the number of empty homes currently stands at 8,528. But in other parts of the country, quantity not quality is a bigger issue. This is why we are continuing to build 500 new homes for affordable rent and low cost home ownership, despite the rent cuts which have been imposed on the sector.
There are also important lessons from Own Place which we would like to test as the new voluntary right to buy is rolled out. With Own Place sales we can make sure that buyers can afford to sustain home ownership by applying an affordability test. We are also able to apply legal conditions so that owners benefitting from a discount cannot normally become private landlords themselves through sub-letting.
Given the huge personal benefits some tenants will gain through right to buy discounts, we believe it is reasonable to ensure that any homes sold remain in home ownership for low income households. Afterall, it is precisely the low income households that we were set up to support, whatever the tenure.