Organisations are being urged to sign up to a charter developed by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) and the National Housing Group (NHG) following a report by the CIH and Orbit published earlier this year called Shared Ownership 2.1.

The report highlighted that shared ownership is affordable across the majority of the UK, is currently over-subscribed but is one of the best ways to get on the property ladder. The sector has more capacity to build and so is well placed to meet the demand.

The aim of the charter is to:

  • promote shared ownership and so assist with the affordability crisis and in high price areas being at the heart of the solution to the current housing crisis;
  • increase the impetus behind shared ownership within the sector by supporting new and existing providers and raising public awareness of the product;
  • provide a flexible framework allowing organisations to develop internal procedures to deliver consistent customer experience in buying, owning and selling a shared ownership property and a network to enable those who sign up to share good practice and learn from others in the sector. To work with tenants to understand the issues that are important to them.

By signing up to the charter, members are agreeing to adhere to the following five core commitments:

  • seeing shared ownership as a corporate and strategic priority: this can be achieved by ensuring senior staff understand the drivers for shared ownership and by investment in shared ownership being made at a strategic level so as to develop a mixed portfolio of tenures according to local need.
  • understanding the market: organisations must ensure that all data collected is robust and effectively used including market intelligence gathering. They must be open to working with key stakeholders. In particular, they should work with lenders to adopt industry standard processes and support for shared owners encountering difficulties with arrears, for example.
  • a commitment to providing expert and consistent customer service: there must be clear internal processes, with staff training, to deliver a customer focused service. Internal service standards should be introduced in order to promote consistency. There should be clear roles and responsibilities for all staff involved in the process so as to provide a seamless service to the customer. This should include making clear who is responsible for repairs, rent increases and service charge so that the customer knows who to contact.
  • the information supplied is clear and accessible: any information given regarding shared ownership is to be accessible and clear including all sales and marketing material. The guidance must allow potential customers to make an informed decision relating to the product.
  • a commitment to continually reviewing the service: by obtaining regular feedback from customers and using internal scrutiny to drive improvements, and by engaging with key stakeholders to grow and improve the product.

There has already been some progress following the release of the report and charter, with two new lenders to the shared ownership market – Atom Bank and Tipton and Coseley.

In addition, the Government has removed some of the previous restrictions on the qualifying criteria so that the product is now available to more of those in need. They have raised income levels (now £90,000 London £80,000 elsewhere), enabled movement within tenure so existing shared owners can buy another shared ownership property, removed restrictions on property size based on the number of persons intended to occupy. They are also actively promoting the product.

A number of organisations have already signed up to this voluntary charter which goes to show the continued commitment to shared ownership within the sector and more widely and shows every sign of going from strength to strength in the future.