My SO Home: No. 24

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“I have to admit that without shared ownership we would probably be homeless. It is the only answer for us as we would probably never be considered for social housing, especially in the current climate.”

Unfortunately we lost our own home in 2015 due to my ill health and subsequent financial issues. Since 2011, we have been dependent on just my husband’s salary. We are now in our third shared ownership home. As an older couple, we had to move twice for health reasons, and once because of anti-social issues.

I think, for me, the main issue with shared ownership is the STIGMA involved from the moment you move in. Also the anti-social behaviour you often encounter. On the day we moved into our current home, we noticed a huge paper banner on the front door. It read: “ANOTHER AFFORDABLE HOME FROM LIVEWEST”. Of course, this means the whole neighbourhood knows even before you move in that you are what they term “council tenants”. Despite having a substantial investment of equity in our home we are seen by our ‘private’ neighbours as ‘beneath them’. 

Poor new-build quality

In our last home I had to get the MP involved because LiveWest didn’t think it was their duty to provide us with a brand new home without, leaks, cracked glass and other problems. It took 18 months to sort out the defects, which were severe. The housing association blamed the developer and the developer blamed the housing association.

We are currently paying £40 a month for plumbing cover as we no longer trust LiveWest. This  is obviously a stretch when you’re living on one income.

In this house we have already had to use our plumbing cover four times in 2 1/2 years – for two replacement kitchen taps, a huge leak in the bedroom which was coming from under the bath on the bathroom (plumber said he thought it had probably been leaking since we moved in in 2020), and a faulty shower mixer which is sending out scalding hot water. We understand shared owners are 100% responsible for repairs. But these should have been covered under new build warrantees. We had such trouble getting LiveWest and the developer to agree we gave up. (In the last house it took 18 months to get issues sorted).

High resale costs

When it came to moving house, on both occasions we were told we had to. use an estate agent. Even though LiveWest had been happily advertising other re-sales on their website and on Help to Buy. This has cost us dearly both times. Not once has Homes England or the Government fully explained WHY LiveWest can pick and choose how they do things according to the customer concerned.

When we sold our previous property we were told we had to pay LiveWest the money for the valuation survey. Which went to them; we weren’t allowed to see it! The valuation was unfavourable which meant I had to get in touch with my MP. It then took nine months to finally move into our current home as a result of LiveWest holding things up.

Due to my severe arthritis and wanting a smaller home to look after we are now selling again.

Older couple with their financial advisor
Image: Drazen Zigic, Freepik

And, once again, despite LiveWest advertising other re-sales on the exact same development as ours, we were told to use an estate agent. This time I didn’t give them the opportunity to ‘hide’ the valuation, by arranging it before they had a chance to interfere with proceedings. The house we are buying is taking so long to complete that we have already had three valuations by a RICS surveyor, two of which cost us £300 each.

Considering we are living in what is described as ‘affordable’ housing it is shocking that the rules require use of an estate agent as well as paying for a valuation survey. Private sellers would not have these extra costs.

Initial percentage shares

When looking for a smaller home, we kept coming up against the issue of percentage shares. Not one of the housing associations we approached were prepared to allow us a 25% share (which is all we can afford). We are both 64 and cannot now get a mortgage.

I wrote to my MP asking why the GOV.UK website suggests 10%-75% shares and yet 40% is the only deal offered wherever we go. I got a response which said:

“It is not unreasonable to expect that housing providers will have a ‘target’ average equity stake across their shared ownership homes, but this must not exclude buyers who are only able to afford an equity stake below this target level.

Indeed, in keeping with government guidance, housing providers must sell equity stakes in their shared ownership homes flexibly, in accordance with a buyer’s individual circumstances”. 

However, I have had to get back to the Government Minister again asking why these housing associations aren’t doing this. Who we can ask to help us if they refuse us a 25% share when that is all we can afford? I’m still waiting for this answer. We are now trying to buy the only shared ownership house available at 25% in our county.

Shared ownership should work better for older people

I think that the more the public and the Government know about the downsides of shared ownership the better. It is a system geared mainly for young people but can work for older people like us too. It’s just a shame there is no consistent set of rules for all housing providers, no transparency and such a lot of stigma around treatment of those in affordable housing.

Featured image: Drazen Zigic, Freepik

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