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Can first-time buyers snag an ‘affordable’ home?

Around 41,000 new homes were built under the government’s affordable housing drive last year – but less than 11,000 were put on the market for buyers, the second-lowest figure on record. The stock of affordable housing[1] increased by 27% last year, but the vast majority of the stock went to social housing or rent schemes. If you’re hoping to get a helping hand onto the property ladder, how likely is the affordable housing scheme to help?

Which? looks at the latest affordable housing figures and explains how the scheme works for buyers.

25% of affordable homes for buyers

Overall, around 41,000 new houses were completed under the government’s affordable housing drive in 2016-17. Compared to the previous year, the number of these houses built in 2016-17 increased by 27%.

But 2015-16 also marked a record low for the scheme in terms of completions. While the most recent period has been an improvement, the number of available properties remains well below previous peaks. Of the new homes built this year as affordable housing, the majority – 24,350 – were for rent schemes.

These allow people to rent on the private market at 20% below market value. A further 5,380 went to social housing, where properties are owned by the local authorities, and another 900 were for intermediate rent, which allows housing associations to let properties on the private market. As such, just 11,000 were earmarked for buyers to become home owners at a below-market rate.

Since 2010, this has been split between shared ownership, where buyers purchase a portion of the property from a housing association, and below-market-value properties.

Find out more: our guide to affordable housing[2] explains how you can benefit

What is affordable housing for buyers?

If you’re looking to buy a property, the affordable housing scheme presents you with a number of options. Under shared ownership, you purchase between 25% and 75% of a property from a housing association, and pay rent on the remaining share. Over time, you’ll have the option of buying a larger share of equity in the property.

Just 2,060 homes built last year under other affordable housing schemes. The government is planning to make a number of properties available on a 20% discount on the market rate under its Starter Homes Initiative. As yet, none have been put onto the market.

  • If you’re thinking of buying your first home, you can get impartial, expert advice on how to find the right mortgage by calling Which?

    Mortgage Advisers[3] on 0808 252 7987.

How can I get on the property ladder?

The number of affordable homes built under the government scheme is well below demand from first-time buyers – but you may have other options for getting on the housing ladder. If you have a small amount set aside from a deposit, you may be able to buy using a 95% mortgage[4]. Alternatively, the government’s Help to Buy scheme[5] allows buyers to purchase a new-build home with a 5% deposit, and offers an equity loan of up to 20% (or 40% in London).

If you’re able to get help from your family, a bank may consider granting you a guarantor mortgage,[6] where a parent or family member guarantees your debt. And if you need help saving, you could consider using a Help to Buy Isa. On savings up to ?12,000, the government will give you a 25% boost, provided you use the money towards your first home.


Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage. Which? Limited (registered in England and Wales number 00677665) is an Introducer Appointed Representative of Which?

Financial Services Limited (registered in England and Wales number 07239342). Which? Financial Services Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FRN 527029).

Which? Mortgage Advisers and Which? Money Compare are trading names of Which?

Financial Services Limited.

Registered office: 2 Marylebone Road, London NW1 4DF.


  1. ^ affordable housing (
  2. ^ affordable housing (
  3. ^ Which?

    Mortgage Advisers (

  4. ^ 95% mortgage (
  5. ^ Help to Buy scheme (
  6. ^ guarantor mortgage, (
  7. ^ Help to Buy Isa (

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