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What is ‘affordable housing’? 

The answer to this question is perhaps not as straight forward as you might think…

When most people think of the term affordable housing, certainly in the context of what they would like to see delivered in their town or city, they think of property which can be bought by the general public at a price point which is attainable.

Planning guidance defines affordable housing as ‘social rented, affordable rented and intermediate housing’.

Although there is certainly a need for this type of housing, it does not match what the average person on the street would like to see available, for themselves, or for their children who are looking at buying their first home.

One development in York is an interesting example of how the General Permitted Development Rights (GPDR), in conjunction with the Help to Buy scheme, both introduced by the government, have effectively created a new marketplace for first time buyers:

York is a beautiful city, steeped in heritage, with low crime rates, nice suburban areas, a university with high student let demand, good employment prospects and fantastic transport links. As a result, it is one of the most expensive places to live in the North of England. Property prices are verging on South East prices, but we do not see London wages on average. Put quite bluntly, a great place to live as a young person, but a real struggle to buy your first property.

The Helmsley Group, a York based company who fund property investment and development through syndication to private clients, decided to look at ways to provide local, affordable housing. The result being a large-scale re-development of a business park on the periphery of the city, Clifton Moor.

Clifton Moor has been somewhat un-loved for many years; the city was suffering with an excess of vacant offices, with some on the estate having been vacant for 7, 8 and even 15 years. Helmsley purchased these buildings and have thus far created 72 new homes, with another 19 under construction and 60 more in the development pipeline. This development has started the ball rolling for other surrounding property owners to follow suit, transforming the face of this once un-loved office park.

This development was specifically aimed at helping first time buyers get on to the property ladder with prices starting from as little as £99,950 and averaging £130,000. Although other developments in York offer the opportunity for purchasers to use the Help to Buy scheme, prices for these houses tend to be £200,000 minimum, which is simply un-attainable for most young people starting out in life. The scheme at Clifton Moor is able to be delivered much cheaper than traditional developments, because of the GPDR.

The sales so far have almost exclusively been first time buyers, with 85% of the all purchasers using the Help to Buy scheme. Purchasers include student mid-wives, trainee young professionals and nurses who in reality, without this development had no realistic chance of being able to get on the property market any time soon. They have gone from perhaps renting a room in a shared house at £500 per month, to now owning their own new build, high spec apartment, with a mortgage at half this monthly cost.

Max Reeves, Associate Director

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