Affordable homes lure staff to high-cost housing regions

    The government’s plans for building thousands of new affordable
    homes and giving 300,000 housing association tenants the right to
    part-buy should be good news for low-paid workers in the care
    sector.

    But the move could also benefit social workers.

    It has become increasingly difficult for social workers to get a
    foot on the property ladder with the average price of a home
    topping £160,000. With prices in London and the South East
    considerably higher, many social services departments are
    struggling to attract staff.

    The key worker scheme, set up by the Office of the Deputy Prime
    Minister, has helped only a few social workers so far – it is
    focused on teachers, police and nurses – while pressures on social
    housing mean key workers are way down councils’ priority list.

    The government wants to see more mixed-use developments built,
    where a large percentage of properties are available for key
    workers to either rent or buy at discounted rates. Housing
    associations are also developing more innovative ways of providing
    accommodation.

    One such development is in East London for East Thames Housing
    Association. Its assistant chief executive, Frank Vickery, said
    that, of the 200 units, 26 per cent would be offered for key worker
    ownership and 24 per cent for rental.

    “It offers flexibility so people can enter the market through
    renting and after a couple of years, as they progress in their
    careers, move on to shared ownership starting at 25 per cent,” he
    said. “It allows people to staircase their way into ownership and
    helps young people put down roots in an area.”

    Vickery said that under the scheme if people wanted to move on they
    could sell the equity back to the housing association, so the
    property could be offered to another key worker.

    But he said part ownership would not be for everyone. So the
    association will rent one-bed flats for £100 a week and
    two-bed flats for £140 a week, way below the market rate.

    John Beer, social services director at Southampton Council, said
    the issue needed to be addressed by authorities if they wanted to
    attract staff.

    “People moving into high-cost areas have either got to have good
    salaries or be helped somehow,” he said. “Those councils helping
    people into housing are the ones getting staff – any social care
    employer has got to ask what the barriers are to getting staff and
    how these can be overcome.”

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