Housing specialists call for simplified affordable homes schemes

Thu 30th Jun 2011

A team of South West experts helping local people get on the first rung of the property ladder is calling for affordable housing schemes to be more unified across the region.

Coodes Solicitors’ affordable housing team, together with independent financial advisors in Cornwall, say the vast range and complexities of affordable housing schemes is a barrier for local people trying to buy a home.

In many cases, mortgage providers are reluctant to lend to someone buying or part buying an affordable home because of restrictions around who can buy the property in future.

With any new housing developments required by law to offer up to 70% of the scheme as “affordable”, the experts fear communities may have more homes available than there are people able to buy.

Schemes currently offered by developers and housing associations include shared ownership, shared equity, key worker schemes and government supported HomeBuy Direct.

Kate Williams, conveyancing solicitor at Coodes in Holsworthy and head of the firm’s affordable housing team, said the affordable housing schemes she deals with in her community can be quite different to those dealt with by her colleagues in Truro and St Austell.

Through planning legislation, local authorities can apply Section 106 agreements that control who can buy properties to ensure the housing stock remains affordable and meets the needs of local people.

However, it is this restriction that means it can be difficult to find a mortgage for an affordable home.

Ms Williams said: “The schemes can be intricately different, which can mean the conveyancing takes longer.

“I would like to see a more unified structure so that all professionals – solicitors, mortgage advisors and lenders – can become familiar with dealing with this and essentially get more people on the property ladder.

“We working with lots of clients to help them understand the complexities of each scheme and explain it in plain English.”

Ronan Marrion, mortgage advisor with Worldwide Financial Planning in Wadebridge, said there are a restricted number of providers prepared to lend on the purchase of an affordable home. High street providers which do include Halifax, Woolwich and Leeds Building Society.

“Since the credit crunch, it has been much trickier to find a lender. A more straightforward arrangement such as a shared ownership scheme where there is no Section 106 agreement are most likely to be considered.

“But in reality, people still need to be finding at least 10% deposit on the purchase to be supported by a lender.”

Jason Dace, MD of Mortgage and Financial in St Austell, said he receives upwards of two enquiries every week from people searching for a mortgage to buy and affordable home.

“One of the things that can hold up a purchase is the Section 106 agreement because they are different for each development, although this is improving with the unitary authority,” he said.

“Lenders are also reluctant to lend against several properties on one development, so of the limited amount of products available, they may also be restricted by neighbouring mortgages.”

To support people in Cornwall and Devon buying and affordable home, Coodes is introducing a “buy now, pay later” conveyancing service at a fixed price. Clients are not required to pay their fee until they are settled into their new home, and can also opt to spread payments over six months.

Coodes’ affordable housing team comprises Kate Williams based in Holsworthy, Jane Stewart based in Truro office and Nancy Gasser based in St Austell.

Call head office on 01726 874700 to find out more or visit our affordable housing page on the website

Thu 30th Jun 2011

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