A young couple who were previously homeless have been handed the opportunity to buy their brand-new home for just £1 under a pioneering scheme aimed at helping key workers and others get a foot on the property ladder.
The Help to Own scheme has been set up by City of Wolverhampton Council, West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and fund management business Frontier Development Capital Ltd (FDC) for working families struggling to save enough deposit to fulfil their dream of home ownership.
Aaron Parsons, who works in manufacturing and Timothy Perry, who previously worked in hospitality but is now a machine press operator, are among the first batch of tenants who have just moved into 12 new houses at The Marches development in Wednesfield, Wolverhampton.
Help to Own tenants Timothy Perry (front left) and Aaron Parsons (front right) outside their new home with (rear left to right) Cllr Stephen Simkins, Deputy Leader of City of Wolverhampton Council, Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA and Sam Miller, Commercial Director - New Propositions at FDC
NHS workers, including nurses who have been on the front line in the battle against Covid, and other key workers are also among the first 32 tenants to receive the keys to their new homes.
Help to Own has spent £24m purchasing 100 properties - a mix of two, three and four-bedroom houses - being built on Lakefield Road at The Marches which is close to Wolverhampton’s New Cross Hospital. So far, 86 of the houses have been offered to successful applicants and more than 41% of the homes will go to a key worker.
The scheme provides long-term rent security for tenants and enables them to build up a Loyalty Premium as they make their monthly payments. This can then be taken as cash if they leave the scheme within 20 years or they can buy the home for just £1 on their 25th anniversary. With no deposit necessary, the scheme offers a unique route to homeownership.
Aaron and Tim, who were once homeless but more recently rented through social housing, have moved into a two-bedroom house at The Marches.
Aaron said: “Our experience of finding a decent home to rent has been really tough, we have experienced homelessness, and then moved into a social housing property.
“Saving for a deposit whilst renting is really challenging, even though we both work full time, so The Help to Own scheme sounded like the perfect opportunity to get to where we wanted.
“Now we’re in our new home we couldn’t be happier, its stunning and feels like our forever home and the garden is amazing. It’s a new chapter in our lives. We’d recommend the scheme to anyone who’s facing challenges to get a home they love and find a way on to the property ladder.”
Although Help to Own isn’t a social housing scheme it is available to anyone who is struggling to get on the property ladder, subject to affordability and credit checks.
The Council has put £5.7m into the scheme as part of its commitment to provide better homes for all in Wolverhampton, while the WMCA has put £4.7m as part of its wider programme to increase the supply of affordable housing for local people across the region.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA, said: “I am genuinely thrilled to see that the first phase of Help to Own has been such a resounding success, allowing people like Aaron and Tim to move into a high quality home of their own, with the flexibility and security to either save for a deposit or buy the home for just £1 at the end of their tenancy.
“It’s particularly encouraging that a large proportion of the homes are being allocated, as we always intended, to our incredible key workers and frontline NHS staff, who deserve nothing less for their service during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Increasing the supply of affordable homes across the West Midlands is one of the WMCA’s key goals, and it is why we have pioneered a new definition of affordability that links prices to people’s income rather than the local housing market. Help to Own is a key part of our plans, and I look forward to working with our partners to roll the scheme out across the rest of the West Midlands as soon as possible.”
City of Wolverhampton Council leader and WMCA portfolio holder for economy and innovation, Cllr Ian Brookfield, added: “We are incredibly proud that Wolverhampton is home to this ground-breaking scheme, and to see it working so well at the end of the first phase is a testament to our own well-established housing company, WV Living, who have worked closely with the Help to Own team to bring these stunning new-build houses to the first 12 households, whilst delivering new homes across the city, including at previously vacant sites that other developers have overlooked.
“This scheme is giving local families, couples and individuals the opportunity to get on the property ladder and own new, quality-built homes, making the route to homeownership far more accessible than typical private market renting.
“Our key workers – like those just down the road from The Marches at New Cross Hospital - have been at the forefront of our long and taxing battle against Covid-19 and it is hugely satisfying to know we have produced a home ownership scheme with our partners that really does help them achieve their dream of home ownership.
“As a council we are dedicated to bringing forward more homes of a higher quality to everyone, so whilst the Help to Own scheme is clearly already benefiting people local to Wolverhampton, it has enormous potential to scale nationally and change the way we approach homeownership across the UK.”
Of the 471 Help to Own applications received, over half have been from people living outside the Wolverhampton area and the intention is to now roll out the scheme nationally through other developments in different locations.
Fund management business FDC developed the idea from inception, launching NewCo My Generation Group Limited to support delivery of the scheme.
Sam Miller, Commercial Director - New Propositions at FDC commented: “The Help to Own scheme has been a labour of love for our team and seeing the first tenants getting the keys to their homes marks a huge milestone in terms of progress. We’re thrilled to see that our scheme is offering a genuine alternative to hardworking households looking for a better solution to saving for a deposit when facing ever-increasing house prices and skyrocketing rents.
“The response since launch has been incredibly positive, and with strong demand outside of Wolverhampton and the West Midlands, our mission to make the route to home ownership more accessible nationwide has never been clearer or more pertinent.”
To see more details about the scheme, please visit www.help-to-own.com.