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Guest Blog: Shared Ownership

– Julie Layton, Advance UK

What is shared ownership?

Advance was one of the first organisations in the UK to deliver shared ownership for customers with learning disabilities and mental health conditions. It is now one of the few remaining housing providers who still offer this form of housing. Since 1997 we’ve helped more than 600 people to become Shared Owners and we are very proud of the product and the difference it has made to our customers’ independence and sense of safety.

Shared ownership (part-rent, part-buy) provides choice and control over where people live. The current model HOLD (Home Ownership for People with Long term Disabilities) is subsidised by government through its social housing regulator; the Homes and Communities Agency. The scheme is available for people with a Learning Disability (LD), a Mental Health (MH) condition or a Physical Disability.

How does it work?

Working with Advance the prospective home owner finds a suitable property. We purchase the property on their behalf and then sell part of it back to them.  The home owner can gradually buy more of the property and eventually own their home outright.

The benefits of independent living

There are just too many benefits to list here but the main ones we have noticed are:

  • Provides the homeowner with the choice and control over where they live
  • Disabled vulnerable people in stable housing are less likely to need emergency health or care interventions or local authority crisis housing
  • Stability and security can aid recovery from mental health problems
  • It can build confidence and encourage independence as well as bring peace of mind to families as their relative is secure in a long-term house of their own
  • Customers can choose to live closer to their families and support networks

We’ve helped many families and their customers to achieve the level of independent living they wish through a programme like shared ownership and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

One particular example stands out:  Once told that he would always need psychiatric care, Trevor assumed that home ownership wasn’t an option for him.  He has now fulfilled his dream through this scheme and says “home is the biggest sanctuary that anyone can give you.”

Are there any downsides to shared ownership?

Support for mortgage interest (SMI) is used by many of Advance’s shared ownership customers to meet the interest charged on their mortgage.  Unfortunately the Government is altering the way that they will pay Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) from the 6 April 2018. SMI will still be available for claimants who meet the criteria but it will become a loan with interest for any payments made by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) after the 5th April 2018.   This loan plus the interest charged is only repaid on the sale of the property or it’s transferred to someone else and only from any equity in the property once the mortgage and other debts charged against the property is settled.

The number of shared home owners with LD/MH is relatively small compared to the general use home owner population (circa 1200-1500). We are therefore going to lobby DWP to consider an exemption for this group of people because as the loan builds up and reduces the equity in the property it may prevent the customer from being able to move if their personal or health circumstances require them to do so.  Ideally the SMI should stay with the person until they no longer have a need for it and could move with them to a new property if that’s what is required.

Under Universal Credit a claimant will be unable to receive any earned income and still have their mortgage interest met by Support for Mortgage Interest benefit/loan.  This is contained within the Universal Credit regulations and is called the Zero Earnings rule.

Ultimately shared ownership is about empowerment, independence and self-determination.  We think it’s a great scheme and will do our best to continue to support our customers who want to find a lasting and long term solution, a place they can call home.  If you know anyone who might benefit or are able to promote shared ownership more widely, please do so by sharing this link to our website. or contact