Awareness of shared ownership is 'patchy'

New research suggests that the public’s understanding of shared ownership is a lot worse than previously thought.

An earlier survey commissioned by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) and housing association Orbit at the start of the year found that more people had heard of shared ownership, which combines ownership with renting, than the Right to Buy or Help to Buy schemes. Orbit hailed the finding as evidence that shared ownership was becoming “a mainstream product”.

However, the new survey of more than 2,000 people commissioned by developer and landlord Aster for its report, Another Way: How Shared Ownership Can Improve the UK Housing Market, suggests that this may paint an overly rosy picture.

While 60% of respondents said they understood the main benefits of shared ownership, few could accurately explain what it was.

When asked to describe shared ownership, half said they thought it meant living in your home with someone else. Only 51% of people knew that shared ownership mortgages were available from banks and building societies and 23% thought shared ownership was only available to existing social housing tenants.

There are the issues of awareness and understanding - both of which vary across Britain - Rhys Moore, National Housing Federation

Just 1% of people were aware that outside London, the maximum income threshold to qualify for shared ownership was as high as £80,000.

Bjorn Howard, group chief executive of Aster, says the findings show “a lack of understanding about the role shared ownership could play” to make it easier for people to get on the housing ladder.

Rhys Moore, head of media and campaigns at National Housing Federation, which contributed to Aster’s report, adds: “There are the issues of awareness and understanding - both of which vary across Britain.

“This is not helped by simple things: type ‘shared ownership’ into Google, for example, and you’ll be taken to the Help to Buy website. Some may be left with the impression that shared ownership is a government product and is directly linked to Help to Buy.”

Increasing in popularity

Despite public misconceptions, shared ownership is becoming increasingly popular. Some 200,000 homes are already owned on a shared ownership basis and 25,000 units are either under construction or for sale.

The Homes and Communities Agency has also committed £4.1bn to deliver 135,000 new shared ownership homes by 2021 but Aster wants to see the government go further.

Aster would like to see the government launch a campaign to raise public awareness of shared ownership in the same way it publicised Help to Buy. It also wants those housing associations that see shared ownership running contrary to their ethos of social renting to realise the value of a hybrid ownership option.

Promoting shared ownership

Thames Valley Housing (TVH) rebranded its shared ownership offering as SO Resi by Thames Valley Housing and launched the new offering at RESI 2017 last month as well as being a platinum sponsor of the event - find out more here

A shared ownership charter, launched by the CIH earlier this year, goes some way to addressing this problem. It lays out a set of common standards for all housing associations to follow and has already gained the backing of 25 organisations, which Gavin Smart, deputy chief executive, said was needed to support the growing popularity of the tenure.

The hope now, adds Aster, is that housing associations will collaborate to raise the profile and understanding of the product and buyers will begin to consider shared ownership as a first-choice option rather than a last-ditch attempt to get on the housing ladder.

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