Affordable home ownership

Sevenoaks District Council serves a population of 114,900 in a mostly rural district restricted by 93% Green Belt and 60% Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  It transferred its housing to West Kent housing association in 1989 as part of the large-scale voluntary transfer process. Today, Sevenoaks works with partners like West Kent and Moat to enable the provision of new affordable housing.

Moat and Sevenoaks District Council partnered up to deliver a truly innovative affordable home ownership scheme.  A home of your own offers local people an opportunity to purchase a home on the open market. This not only broadens the scope for buyers, but can also free-up much-needed affordable housing in the area.

The partnership has gone from strength to strength. What began as a good idea developed into something greater. With house prices in Sevenoaks among the highest in Britain, Sevenoaks District Council welcomed the chance to work with Moat on such an innovative product and great partnership.

The partnership reviewed previous housing strategy in order to consider what had worked well and what could, perhaps, be remodelled and re-introduced . This identified DIYSO (Do It Yourself Shared Ownership) as a scheme which had successfully assisted a great deal of lower-paid working households, but which had ended a number of years ago with no further grant available to continue it.

However, in order to re-launch such a project, a completely new source of funding had to be identified as there was no longer any national grant available.  This was achieved through a combination of Sevenoaks District Council's planning gains and Moat's own capital reserves. Scheme mechanics were also adapted to reflect the current day strategic, environmental, community and economic contexts.

The result is a new model which achieves wider outcomes than its predecessor and has quickly become a key housing strategy tactic in the Sevenoaks District. As well as meeting a particular housing need ( to assist lower paid working households onto the housing ladder),  the scheme also created a number of carefully planned impacts. These impacts have been beneficial to the District's residents, and supported economic growth and wider sustainability.

They include the removal of development processes and associated land requirements; the freeing-up of much needed affordable homes to meet a growing need on the housing register; creating purchasing chains by assisting first-time buyers, which in turn enables existing residents to move along the housing ladder; and reduced carbon outputs with no development requirements, helping to contribute to both organisations' environmental strategies.

The scheme also aims to create more economically-diverse neighbourhoods by reintroducing lower-income households - and particularly those key to the local workforce - back into areas where, historically, prices have progressively prevented all except those on higher incomes from taking up residence. The consequent freeing-up of rented affordable housing then creates additional solutions for the homeless and households in need.

To demonstrate - a local family with three small children were living in a local village and thanks to A home of your own have now  achieved their long-term goal of owning their own home.  Living in a housing association  rented housing for over 8 years and never quite being able to get a foot on the housing ladder, the family had all but given up on their dream of home ownership.  This scheme provided them with the opportunity to purchase a home without having to move out of the area in search of cheaper housing. Their children remain in the local school with their friends and will grow up in a safe and familiar environment. The mother is a classroom assistant in the local pre-school, so the village will also retain a key member of its local workforce.

This one case also helped to free up an affordable rented home for another family with children, who were previously overcrowded. Their home, in turn, was allocated to another homeless family with one child.  This wide-range of community outcomes was achieved through Moat's and Sevenoaks District Council's jointly developed and funded Council housing strategy tactic.

This strong alliance, which already had an excellent track record, has been taken to the next level with this particular project. It involved significant financial and non-financial resources and corporate commitment, and opened up a whole new future of joint working possibilities. Thanks to the success of A Home of Your Own, Moat and Sevenoaks District Council are already considering the introduction of a second phase.

Such is the success of A Home of Your Own, it won the runners up award this year in the First Time Buyers' Award "Best Housing Alliance" category.  Perhaps of greater strategic significance,  the scheme has  now been rolled out in five South East London Boroughs .