One-on-one interview: Melissa Toomey of the Hastoe Group

Posted 27 December 2013

Melissa Toomey, head of marketing and communications at the Hastoe Group, a leading affordable housing provider and rural specialist, takes time out of her busy end-of-year schedule to answer Marc Da Silva's questions.

What types of properties does Hastoe offer? We develop homes for affordable rent, shared ownership and a small number of units for open-market sale.

Where is your firm developing new homes? We provide housing across the south of England.

In terms of homes for sale, Hastoe provides two models of affordable shared ownership - standard non-restricted and rural 80%-restricted. The rural 80% restricted model means the purchaser must demonstrate a local connection to the area. In terms of non-restricted schemes, we are currently advertising Roussillon in Chichester, West Sussex. As Roussillon is non-restricted it means that it is available to anyone deemed eligible by a Help to Buy agent.

How much does a Hastoe home cost to buy? This varies greatly between developments. We develop across 62 local authorities and house prices differ from one area to the next. We undertake a financial assessment on all potential buyers to determine the amount of property share they are able to buy. This ensures that our buyers are able to make the repayments over the coming years. We have homes from £60,000, requiring a minimum deposit of £3,000 which represents a 30% share of £200,000 full market price.

What makes a Hastoe home stand out from the crowd? Hastoe provides homes in areas where there is an identified need. Our homes are built sustainably, with attention to detail, thoughtful architecture and they are light, airy and spacious. The external design of our homes is always tailored to reflect the local style of houses in the area we are developing in. This means that our developments fit seamlessly into each village or town.

Have you noticed any particular buying trends recently? We've seen an increase in those registering for the shared ownership scheme, as first time buying becomes out of reach for a number of people. With a rise in the percentage of deposit required on the open market, shared ownership has become the only option for many trying to get on the property ladder. This has become particularly apparent in rural locations with a shortage of affordable housing and the growing problem of fuel poverty. We are trying to address these issues by building in areas with an identified housing shortage and by developing eco-friendly housing solutions such as Passivhaus. Our first Passivhaus development at Wimbish in Essex has been very successful with residents reporting an up to 90% reduction in fuel bills annually.

What is Hastoe's USP? A rural specialist, Hastoe has developed over 5,000 homes in more than 200 villages across the south of England. Hastoe is committed in responding to the needs of residents in a pro-active and personal way. This is what gives us the edge, as we're big enough to be innovative but not so big that residents lose the ‘personal touch'. We're the Homes and Communities Agency's leading investment partner in rural development and a member of the Rural Housing Advisory Group. We were also a founder member of the National Housing Federation's Rural Alliance.

Hastoe has an instinctive understanding of the needs of rural communities and a strong track record in delivering high-quality developments that focus on environmental sustainability. This focus has meant an ever-expanding portfolio of quality homes to at least Code for Sustainable Homes Level 3; two award-winning Passivhaus developments with a further four in the pipeline; a ground source heat pump retrofit programme and a new straw bales scheme. By retrofitting existing homes and installing ground source heat pumps we are also helping to tackle our carbon footprint and fuel poverty for our residents.

In terms of design specifics, Hastoe ensures that each of its developments follow the requirements of the area developed in and our schemes always fit within the style of the local area developed in. Our approach is based on providing the type, style and size of homes that local people say they need and in a variety of tenures that suit the financial capabilities of those people. In this way, our homes work as hard as possible for the communities that have supported their development.



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