Shared ownership needs to be made predictable to secure more buyers and lenders, say witnesses giving evidence to a backbench committee’s inquiry into shared ownership
Information on shared ownership needs to be regularised and simplified, to improve shared owner satisfaction and bring more lenders to this still “niche” market, evidence shared during a select committee has suggested.
Witnesses giving evidence at the Leveling Up, Housing and Communities (LUHC) select committee’s inquiry into shared ownership suggested that a body that provides standardised information about shared ownership, including details about mortgages, rents, service charges and repairs, needs to be created.
Helen Spencer, executive director of growth at Great Places Housing Group, Clare Miller, chief executive of Clarion, Oliver Boundy, executive director of development at Anchor and Professor Stanimira Milcheva, professor in real estate finance at University College London, all gave evidence in the second of two panels at a select committee on 4 December.
Witnesses, including Miller, noted that as a “niche” product that needs to be grown, shared ownership is not always well-understood, with the committee estimating that there are around 200,000 households living in shared ownership properties across the UK, the majority of which are in London.
Milcheva stated that data on how many defaults and repossessions occur should be provided to provide greater transparency and reassure institutional investors that the market is safe.
Milcheva said: “If we want to scale up the market and attract private capital into the market in addition to government subsidy, we need to make this market predictable”.
She added that investors want “a steady income stream”, but that with shared ownership they don’t know when people will staircase to 100% and what will happen after they do.
“They might not stay in the property, they might sell it on the open market, and this creates uncertainty from the point of view of institutional investors”, she stated.
Furthermore, she stated that though the loan-to-value ratio is higher for shared ownership mortgages, lenders can access the share owned by the registered provider through the mortgage protection clause included in shared ownership leases.
Milcheva said that lenders required more specialist knowledge of the product, to increase their confidence in investing.
On development of homes for social rent versus shared ownership, witnesses said that more grant funding is needed, but that the government is right to invest in shared ownership through the Affordable Homes Programme 2021-26.
Clarion chief executive Clare Miller, which owns around 12,000 shared ownership homes, noted that subsidy levels required for shared ownership are much lower than for social rent, making it possible to build more shared ownership homes.
Miller said: “Both tenures are needed. Shared ownership is targeted at a different client group, but it is no less needed”.
She added that as the government is financing both shared ownership and social rent homes through the Affordable Homes Programme, there is a “balance to be struck” for housing providers delivering schemes.
“I would dearly love to be building more social rent but the levels of subsidy that we can access from government will only support a modest programme of that”, Miller said.
Last month, several housing associations warned that the government’s changes to the shared ownership product, including the itnroduction of a 1% staircasing option, a repairs allowance of up to £500 per year for 10 years and the 10% initial purchase share, have added costs onto registered providers leading to concerns about the viability of schemes.