UK government expands shared ownership scheme

The UK government has announced plans to expand shared homeownership by removing the restrictions usually associated with the scheme.

The scheme has become a mainstay of the UK housing market, allowing people to part buy, part rent properties, increasing their ownership over time. Now, though, the government will remove a rule that stops people using the scheme more than once.

This means that for the first time, those already in a shared ownership property will be able to move to another, allowing them to use the capital they have gained to move to a bigger property.

Previously, only those in certain professions such as key workers or those that live in certain areas were eligible, but from April 2016, anyone earning below £80,000 in England and £90,000 in London will be able to buy a stake in a property – meaning around 175,000 more people could get a roof of their own over their head.

The measure is just one of several similar moves from the government, as it places a strong emphasis on homeownership. Ownership rates, though, have declined severely in recent years, due to a chronic shortage of housing, which has left supply struggling to meet demand and prices spiralling out of reach. While the government has introduced measures to drive construction of new homes, though, industry experts have criticised the Conservative Party for its focus on homeownership rather than increasing the supply of affordable properties for those who need them.

Mark Hayward, managing director, National Association of Estate Agents, welcomes the news but adds that, “as with all housing promises, they can’t come quick, or big enough”.

“There is still a huge issue with supply and available land upon which to build, not to mention the physical bricks, mortar and labour to do so,” he comments.

“The house building industry is desperately short of human resource and if we are to get Britain building the number of new houses required, we need to address this problem to create actual homes and not aspirational targets.”