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The Importance Of Affordable Homes For First-Time Buyers

Posted 10 September 2020 by Lizzie Leigh

James Munson of Notting Hill Genesis (NHG) talks about Shared Ownership Week and affordable new homes...

We chat to James Munson of Notting Hill Genesis (NHG) housing association, about Shared Ownership Week, 17-23 September, to hear the benefits of the incentive scheme to London buyers.

James, you're head of marketing for Notting Hill Genesis, what does your everyday role entail?

At the moment it involves a lot meetings on MS Teams! Each day is different – at the start of the week we spend a lot of time reviewing weekend activity, updating and re-calibrating our campaigns as needed. I tend to use midweek for catch-ups with team members and routine meetings on projects or with suppliers, and then the later part of the week usually (not always) comes with a little more focus time which I can dedicate either to a specific piece of work or site visits.

NHG builds new homes in central London and across the South East, how do you make them affordable?

In terms of new homes to own we make homes more affordable through Shared Ownership and Help to Buy. Both options make a big difference to buyers, helping first-time buyers enter into home ownership and increasing their purchasing power by lowering the deposit amounts they need to save for and reducing the amount of the full market value their mortgage will need to cover. With Shared Ownership, the rental element (of part-buy part-rent) is usually set with an element of subsidy. It can be adjusted for larger properties in higher value areas to ensure that they’re still affordable for local families and Londoners more generally.

Do you offer any particular incentives for people looking to buy a new home?

Yes, we do offer different incentives at selected developments. Buying a home is the most expensive purchase most people make in their lives and so they are usually designed to help with the costs and fees associated with moving: from solicitors’ fees paid and furniture pack options, to rent holidays for Shared Ownership leaseholders. Our incentives do vary where we offer them, sometimes they are specific to local factors – so, a gym membership, travelcard or shopping voucher could also be an offer where we feel we need to add an incentive to help motivate buyers.

Shared Ownership Week takes place 17-23 September this year, what are the main benefits to potential buyers?

It’s great opportunity to get a lot of information in a short space of time. If you’re not quite sure how it works, whether it’s for you, who offers what and where, then it’s a good time to research Shared Ownership and get the answers you need. One of the strengths of Shared Ownership Week is the profile it generates for buyer case studies - people being able to read stories or watch video content about how others have used Shared Ownership to realise their homeownership plans and buy a home they love is inspiring.

What proportion of the homes you sell are on a Shared Ownership basis?

It varies along with our development pipeline and depending on which sites are live but at the moment the balance is approximately 70/30 based on individual plot sales.

Kidbrooke Station SquareKidbrooke Station Square

What are the top three things that people buying a new home from you in central London are looking for?

A high-quality home in a location that fits their lifestyle at a price that’s right. Since lockdown, green spaces and leisure amenities, access to safe cycling routes, high-speed broadband and open, flexible living spaces for more working from home have also become much more important for people.

Do you think that COVID-19 will change the housing landscape across central London over the next few years?

I think it’s too early to say but I think there will be more home working, people will continue to value London’s green spaces and active travel options more. It may be that more residential development opportunities and more new homes are built if offices and commercial buildings are unable to run at full capacity or no longer be viable in the long-term. Whilst a short-term trend has seen buyers searching in more suburban and further-flung locations, central London’s still a wonderful place to live and work, I don’t think it will be too long before it gets its buzz back.

Do you think more could be done to help first-time buyers purchase a home in central London?

There’s always more that can be done, from simply building more homes, to exploring how greater affordability can be delivered through different product options. The major barriers to buying for first-time buyers are the wide price-to-income ratio in most parts of London and the cost of saving for a deposit. Shared Ownership can significantly reduce the impact of both but can struggle to bridge the gap for buyers in higher value central London locations. The GLA have an intermediate housing consultation open at the moment and it will be interesting to see if some new ideas emerge from this.

NHG works in local communities to provide a range of volunteering activities and care to elderly residents; tell us more.

We were initially set up by volunteers who turned our first house into decent flats for local families and we run a volunteer programme that looks to make the most of people skills to support residents. We do a lot, from supporting community based activities on regeneration estates – whether this is arts and crafts, quizzes or fitness related, to more serious work such as the telephone befriending service that we ran through our volunteer programme during lockdown – the service was called ‘Call and Chat’ to make sure that residents at risk of isolation had some human contact, whether just for a friendly catch up or to help get support if there was anything they needed.

And finally, what schemes is NHG working on right now?

We’ve such an exciting programme, with some of the largest regeneration projects in the country at the Aylesbury Estate and at Grahame Park; a number of joint venture projects at various stages, including at Kidbrooke Station Square and Oaklands, as well some highly attractive developments that we’re selling now. We recently launched four schemes, virtually, over the summer and have seen particularly high levels of demand at Woodberry Down, The Kilnworks (near Limehouse) and the latest phase of Royal Albert Wharf.


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A Guide To Part Buy Part Rent
With Home Reach you buy a share of your chosen newly built home and pay a monthly rent on the part you don’t buy. Your budget will decide the size of the share you buy, rather than the size of your home. So, you might decide to buy a bigger share of a lower priced home or a smaller share of a more expensive home.

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