ODPM launches shared equity taskforce

Amanda Jarvis

March 29, 2006

The shared equity taskforce plans to extend the opportunities for young people to get a first step on the housing ladder.

Run jointly by the ODPM and the Treasury, the taskforce will look at the potential for government intervention in the shared equity market, particularly the scope to work in partnership with the private sector. The aim is to increase the number of people able to benefit from shared equity programmes and help the growing number of ‘intermediate’ households, building on the success in helping key workers into home ownership.

It is estimated that over one million households have incomes too high to qualify for housing benefit but too low to buy a home of their own. Government believes there is significant potential for shared ownership schemes to bridge the divide between social renting and full homeownership.

The taskforce, led by housing minister Yvette Cooper and Treasury minister John Healey, will identify the longer-term potential for shared equity products and what the potential constraints may be to widening shared equity schemes to benefit more people. The taskforce will also increase our knowledge base and identify the current products available and in development, consider the potential for take-up and assess the impacts and benefits of increased shared equity programmes on local and national housing markets and the wider economy.

The taskforce will be assisted by an expert advisory panel. Membership of the panel will include representatives from the finance industry, house builders, local authorities and housing associations. Already a number of experienced practitioners and academics have signed up to sit on the advisory panel, they include; David Pretty (Barratts); Peter Williams (Council of Mortgage Lenders); Kate Davies (Notting Hill). Also, Steve Wilcox (University of York), Julie Cowans (Joseph Rowntree Foundation) and Sarah Webb (Chartered Institute of Housing).

It is expected that the taskforce will report by the end of this year ahead of the comprehensive spending review next year.

Launching the details of the taskforce at the Housing and Shared Equity in Housing conference in London, Cooper said:

“These are practical steps to help families get a first foot on the housing ladder – the extra investment in the Budget, one-stop-shops to give people tailored support and now a new taskforce to realise the benefits of shared ownership for many more people demonstrates this government’s commitment to support the aspirations of first-time buyers.”

Healey said: “With this joint taskforce we’re working together with the private sector to improve the opportunities available to first-time buyers.”

The shared equity taskforce is part of a package of measures launched to help first-time buyers and deliver more homes for future generations.

From the beginning of April, there will be 23 ‘Homebuy Agents’ covering every region in the country – one-stop-shops to give first-time buyers clear advice on how they could be helped by the new Homebuy scheme by buying a part share in properties with the rest of the costs met by lenders and registered social landlords.

These measures build on £970m set out in the Budget for the National Affordable Housing Programme to deliver 35,000 new low cost home ownership properties as well as funding announced last week for 49,000 more social homes for rent to be built over the next two years. An extra homes pilot scheme to bring forward more social homes in London to help people out of expensive temporary accommodation was also announced last week.

Cooper commented: “While there is huge potential for us to widen shared equity now to help more people access the housing market, it is not an alternative to building more new homes for the future.

“We need to build more homes across the board for the next generation – more market housing, more social housing and more shared equity housing – to fix the disparity between supply and demand and ease pressures on first-time buyers.”

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