Affordable housing

Affordable housing is a general term to cover a variety of government sponsored schemes to help home buyers enter the housing market.

Affordable housing is a general term to cover a variety of government sponsored schemes to help home buyers enter the housing market. Schemes are often run in conjunction with housing associations or developers and administered by bodies such as the Homes and Communities Agency or through agents known as HomeBuy Agents. The schemes listed below must not be confused with the Help to Buy Scheme. This is a scheme that is was also introduced by the government but this is a much broader based scheme intended to stimulate the housing market.

There are restrictions on who can benefit from such schemes:

  • Most schemes are only available to first time buyers
  • Some schemes are open only to certain categories of worker, often known as 'keyworkers'
  • Access to the schemes may be limited to those earning under a certain limit
  • Participants will still need to find the money for costs and fees associated with the purchase, together with the deposit on any share being purchased

The availability of the schemes and the terms on which they are offered, are subject to frequent change, so it is important to get up to date advice before deciding on any course of action.

Shared ownership schemes

These schemes allow a purchaser to buy only a proportion of the property (between 25% - 75%), paying only a low rent on the unowned share which is normally bought by a housing association. The Government scheme is called New Build HomeBuy and only applies to newly built homes. Participants in the schemes can gradually increase their share in the property: this is known as 'staircasing'. Additional shares in the property are bought at the market value at the time of the additional acquisition. Stamp Duty Land Tax is only payable once the share of ownership reaches 80%.

Shared equity schemes

With these schemes, the purchaser acquires 100% of the property through two different loans, one from a commercial mortgage lender, and the other an equity loan from the Government, a developer or another private equity loan provider. With an equity loan the lender shares in any rise (and perhaps fall) in the value of the property over the course of the loan. The equity loans are interest free for an initial period, but then interest may become payable. The Government schemes is called HomeBuy Direct. Stamp Duty Land Tax may be payable depending on the terms of the scheme.

Low-cost home ownership schemes

These schemes allow council and housing association tenants the chance to buy their rented homes at a discount: the 'Right to Buy' helps a tenant buy a council home; and the 'Right to Acquire' helps with the purchase of a housing association home. 'Social HomeBuy' helps buy a share in a council or housing association home if a landlord participates in the scheme.


These schemes, also known as 'save-a-deposit', help someone save for a deposit whilst renting. The last coalition Government amended the  Rent to Buy scheme in September 2014.  The scheme is only available in limited areas: for up to date information on the current extent of the scheme look at    

Where to go for further information

Details on Government schemes can be found at

How we can help

Anyone considering purchasing a property on a shared ownership or shared equity basis needs legal advice in relation to the obligations which flow from this relationship. Our experienced property team will be able to provide advice and assistance in relation to the rights and responsibilities involved.

For information of users: This material is published for the information of clients. It provides only an overview of the regulations in force at the date of publication, and no action should be taken without consulting the detailed legislation or seeking professional advice. Therefore no responsibility for loss occasioned by any person acting or refraining from action as a result of the material can be accepted by the authors or the firm.

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