How to buy housing for key workers
Many social workers struggle to find a decent place to live. Not surprising when the average house price in the UK is £157,000, according to the latest figures from the Nationwide building society.
However a scheme to provide affordable homes for public sector employees has not proved very popular with social workers so far. The government’s Key Worker Living programme includes home loans of up to £50,000, shared ownership and subsidised renting. Social workers are eligible but only 63 took advantage of the scheme during its first year (2004/05), the government has announced.
This could be because social workers are new to Key Worker Living and the idea has not yet taken off. Or it could be that, as house prices continue to rise in many areas, the help offered is not sufficient. Plenty of teachers and nurses are now using the scheme. Key Worker Living took over from an earlier initiative, the Starter Homes Initiative, which was mainly for nurses, teachers and the police.
1. Who is eligible?
Qualified local authority social workers living in London, the south east or east England are eligible. (Unqualified social workers, and all other social services staff – except occupational therapists and educational psychologists, who do qualify – are not eligible). You can be a first time buyer, an existing home owner or looking to rent.
2. What schemes are available?
From April next year you can:
*Borrow up to £50,000 as an equity loan. The idea is to help key workers buy a home on the open market, or a new property built by a social landlord . (Most social landlords are housing associations). On an equity loan you do not make monthly repayments, as you do not repay the loan until you sell.The amount you can borrow will depend on income, savings, and the price of the property you want to buy.
*Buy shared ownership of a newly built flat or house. This means you buy at least 25% of a property and pay rent on the remaining share.
*Opt for “intermediate” renting, where the rent is set below local market rents, usually at about 25% discount. Accommodation is provided by social landlords.
3. How do I apply?
Via local zone agents, (see list below), who will tell you which key workers in your area can get help and whether you are eligible. This depends on recruitment and retention of staff locally.
4. Are there any other affordable housing schemes?
If you do not qualify for the government scheme, there are other affordable homes schemes, with priority given to key workers. To find out what is available in your area, contact your local Housing Corporation office, which you can find on their website.
5 What happens if I leave social work?
This is a big drawback of the scheme. If you quit the profession, you will have to pay back your equity loan. This is likely to be difficult because your loan will be invested in your home, so you may need to sell it to release the cash. People who opt for shared ownership properties, (mix of owning and renting), and then stop being a key worker, will forfeit the right to rent part of their home and have to buy it outright. Key workers on subsidised rent who quit will have to leave their home too.
6 Further info
Contact your local zone agent to find out more.
0845 300 2820
South east England (Surrey, West Sussex, East Sussex, Kent, Berkshire, Hampshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire)
0845 600 6699