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First-time buyers receive lifeline

PUBLISHED: 07:00 13 August 2009 | UPDATED: 11:29 06 July 2010

First time buyers in rural East Anglia were given a lifeline by the government yesterday

First time buyers in rural East Anglia were given a lifeline by the government yesterday

Tara Greaves

First time buyers in rural East Anglia were given a lifeline by the government yesterday, but experts have warned that it comes with strings attached.

Housing minister Ian Austin announced 13,000 areas - including swathes of Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire - where affordable homes will be guaranteed now and in the future in a bid to ease a chronic shortage.

First time buyers in rural East Anglia were given a lifeline by the government yesterday, but experts have warned that it comes with strings attached.

Housing minister Ian Austin announced 13,000 areas - including swathes of Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire - where affordable homes will be guaranteed now and in the future in a bid to ease a chronic shortage.

But the properties will be offered on a part-rent, part-buy basis, from September 7, so they remain in the social sector.

It means buyers will either be restricted to purchasing 80pc of shared ownership properties in parts of rural England or will have to sell them back to providers, such as housing associations, if they acquire a 100pc stake.

The new rules will be introduced in areas where land for cheap new homes is limited or where a lack of properties means it is difficult to buy homes that can then be offered on a part-ownership basis including Cley, Pulham Market, Swainsthorpe and Guist.

Adam Ronaldson, chief executive of the Saffron Housing Trust, which is based in Long Stratton, said: “We applaud any incentives to keep our rural communities alive but we need people to want to take part in them. Most people aspire to full ownership rather than 80pc so it will be interesting to see how many take this up.

“As an organisation, we do little shared ownership because it is not what people want. Instead, we concentrate on rental properties.”

Generally, people who buy a share of a property from a housing association and then pay rent on the remaining portion are able to increase their stake to full ownership.

But Mr Austin is using powers in the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 to ensure that shared ownership properties in small rural settlements are not lost to the private sector.

The provisions will also enable organisations and companies to provide shared ownership properties on a similar basis to housing associations.

Mr Austin said: “We are determined to help provide more homes in rural areas and help first-time buyers on to the property ladder.

“These new measures will not only help protect affordable rural homes but also boost the number of properties available.

“We simply can't afford to lose shared ownership homes in areas where they are difficult to replace, which is why these new provisions on ownership are so important.”

To see the list of areas designated by the government visit http://www.opsi.gov.uk/ and enter 2098 in the search box along with 2009 and select the document.

Are you looking for a new home? Visit www.homes24.co.uk and get the Eastern Daily Press on Fridays for our property section.

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