Why Escape To The Country’s Jonnie Irwin is advocating for more shared ownership

Shared Ownership Week, which begins on October 5, is seven days devoted to the part-own, part-rent scheme that enables people to get on the housing ladder who otherwise could not afford to.

It’s supported by Jonnie Irwin, who hosts BBC One’s Escape To The Country and Channel 4’s A Place In The Sun.

He believes that everyone should be able to own their own home, and that most of us are keen to do so.

‘It’s in our DNA,’ he says. ‘Our homes are our castles and we all want our own space. Buying a first home is a rite of passage and gives so much more security than renting, and you won’t be living in someone else’s property.

‘We all want a nest and that desire will never go, though affordability is often an issue, which is where shared ownership steps in. It’s the only way to buy with a small deposit, as in the mainstream market you’d be looking at putting down 15 or 20% of the cost, which is a huge amount, particularly in London where prices are so high.’

Shared Ownership Week was introduced to inform buyers and dispel common misconceptions about the scheme.

‘There’s still lots of ignorance around shared ownership and people fill the gaps with negative ideas,’ explains Jonnie.

‘As long as you can afford the monthly outgoings and pay your bills, you will have just as much security as when you’re buying outright, and although it sounds like you have to share with someone else, that definitely isn’t the case!’

He’s keen to stress that this type of housing is not the poor relation. ‘There are lots of options and nowadays new-build shared ownership homes match those being sold outright in terms of quality, design and energy-efficiency.

And the rules have recently changed for the better and it’s much easier to buy more shares so you own a bigger proportion, and the cost of doing so is cheaper. My sister purchased a shared ownership home about 30 years ago, and these days the process is much more equitable and transparent.’

As part of his work in promoting Shared Ownership Week, Jonnie met shared owners Tiago Fragoso, Ian Legg, Vicson Lopez and John Whelan and his partner Alan Crookham, who have all used the scheme to buy at different developments across London. Although their stories are varied, Jonnie was struck by the similarities between them.

‘What stood out for me was their absolute glee in owning their own home. Being able to afford to buy took them all by surprise,’ he explains. ‘And they were able to live exactly where they wanted to without having to move miles away for financial reasons. John and Alan are in Bermondsey, a central and normally expensive area.

‘It’s very empowering that shared ownership is for everyone, of all ages, and earnings caps (£90,000 for households in London, £80,000 outside) restrict it to those who need it most, and it will be even more important now that the Help to Buy equity loan scheme is ending.

‘Without shared ownership, there’d be a huge vacuum at the bottom of the market and many people would be trapped for ages in rental accommodation.’

So what advice does he have about using shared ownership? ‘Educate yourself and once you’re close to 
your deposit, sit down with a mortgage broker experienced in shared ownership mortgages to work out you can borrow,’ says Jonnie. ‘Have a mortgage agreed in principle so you’re ready to proceed once you start looking for a home.’

Find out more on the Shared Ownership Week website.

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