Agility Can be the Key that Unlocks Home Ownership for First-Time Buyers

In Northern Ireland most people think that owning your own home makes sense, that it brings a level of financial security, and a permanent address brings a feeling of stability. Around 500,000 of the 768,000 households across the region are owner-occupied, making this by far the largest tenure type, writes Mark Graham, Chief Executive of Co-Ownership.

Co-Ownership’s most recent Social Impact Survey confirms the impact of home ownership with four in every five of our customers reporting improved wellbeing on becoming a homeowner, and half reporting that they would remain in the rental sector if our shared ownership model was not available.

The shifting trends of the property market are well documented. Over half of homeowners don’t have a mortgage. Most of them were, like me, part of that generation that found home ownership easier to achieve – house prices were much lower relative to incomes and deposits could be saved much more quickly. We were the lucky generation. Today, we have higher interest rates and property prices are held up by a lack of supply, which has created a faltering market over the last year which together with high inflation has taken confidence out of the market. We have seen signs of confidence returning since the new year, but it is still a challenging economic environment for young people who want to own their own home. In the longer term we need to build more homes and we need to ensure that first-time buyers have access to affordable finance.

Home Ownership

Our purpose is to help people who by themselves have no reasonable possibility of owning their own home. Without our help even more people would be stuck with expensive and precarious private rental market as their option. We bring more demand into the system.

Co-Ownership has been helping people own their own homes in Northern Ireland now for over 40 years. The model has fundamentally stayed the same, but our longevity has also been about our ability to adjust to changing needs and the ups and downs of the housing market. For instance, earlier this month, the Department for Communities announced an increase in the property value limit for applications to Co-Ownership from £190,000 to £195,000, showing that our new Minister for Communities is committed to providing individuals and families with an alternative route into home ownership. Equally, the local construction sector will take confidence in this change, with Co-Ownership homes representing around 10% of the first-time buyers’ market. This increase ensures our products keep pace with house prices, meaning more people can find a quality home to suit their needs as we continue to make home ownership affordable.

Agility is being delivered in the private sector too. Recently Progressive Building Society announced it has broadened its range of mortgage products and introduced a no-deposit option for Co-Ownership buyers. This means our customers can borrow 100 per cent of the mortgaged share of the property they aim to buy. Mortgage providers offering competitive mortgage products to Co-Ownership customers is key to our continued success, as it means we can address one of the greatest barriers to home ownership.

We’re incredibly proud of the progress we continue to make, and the impact we continue to have. Since 1978 we have supported more than 32,000 people into homeownership with more than 20,000 going on to full home ownership.  Our model is working, and as this level of collaboration and agility continues with our stakeholders, it’s set to work even harder for people over the coming years at least.

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