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Panorama Friday, 28 June, 2002, 18:15 GMT 19:15 UK
Priced out of the market?
Sarah Barrow
Sarah Barrow is looking for "affordable housing"
Priced out of the market?

With property prices in some areas now looking more like telephone numbers, many first-time buyers feel it's a hopeless situation.

But people like speech therapist Sarah Barrow, featured in Panorama, are managing to get on the housing ladder through schemes being run by housing associations.

Help for 'key workers'

I would move (from London) if I couldn't find a house I could afford

Sarah Barrow
Moat Housing, which is helping Sarah buy her first flat, is part of the Starter Home Initiative (SHI), a 250m government-funded scheme for "key workers" like teachers, nurses and police officers.

Sarah will get what is called an Equity Loan - an interest-free sum to go towards the cost of the flat. She won't have to pay it back until she sells her flat - and then she'll give back the same proportion that she was given.

The typical contribution in the London area is around 30,000. So on a flat costing 100,000, the grant would be 30 per cent of the price.

If a key worker sells his or her flat after 10 years for 200,000, he or she will have to pay back the same percentage - in this example, 60,000.


The SHI is aimed at public service workers in areas where high house prices could mean recruitment problems - and places are limited to around 10,000.

This has been criticised by unions, who say all workers should be seen as key workers.

Housing market statistics
More than 7 out of 10 people in Britain own their homes
The average house price in Britain is now more than 100,000
In Scotland - where growth rates are lowest - prices have gone up by 8% in the last year
The average age of the first-time buyer in England is its highest ever at 34
But housing associations are coming up with more and more schemes to help all workers in expensive areas like London and the South-East.

These include "shared ownership" which means you buy a proportion of your home - say 50 per cent - and then pay rent to a housing association on the rest.

If your salary goes up, you can then buy a bigger proportion. Some people have eventually bought their house outright.

Ever-increasing demand

The demand has been so great for the SHI scheme that already more than 400 people have bought a home through Moat.

In South London, where Sarah is buying, more than seven out of ten of the places have already been taken up.

Moat's chief executive John Barker said: "This is an indication of the enormous levels of demand from essential workers in areas where property prices make home ownership unaffordable for so many. We continue to receive around 100 applications per month from key workers."

But prices are rising so fast that in some areas, even with the SHI loan, it's too expensive to buy.

Barker said: "250 million will not solve the housing problems for key workers in areas where property prices are continuing to escalate strongly. We are working in partnership with local authorities and key worker employers to consider other options."

Useful links

Moat Housing:

Four London housing associations have joined together to run the biggest scheme, Keys to the Capital, which will help workers throughout the city:

Other housing associations include:

The Government has put together its own factsheet on the SHI, with more contact numbers for schemes in different areas:

(The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.)

'Key worker' Sarah Barrow
"I would move [from London] if I couldn't find a house I could afford"
The Housing Ladder


Do you think the housing market will crash?



1447 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

Visit the BBCi newly-launched property site for a wealth of information on buying, selling and moving
Buying, selling, moving with BBCi

See also:

26 Jun 02 | Business
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