Accessing affordable housing

    Overview

    Affordable housing is for people whose current housing does not meet their needs or who are a newly forming household, both of whom are either;

    • unable to afford to buy a home on the open market, or;
    • are looking to rent a home but cannot afford to pay market rents

    There are both rental options and low-cost home ownership products available in Cheshire West. We have our own development programme and works closely with housing associations and private developers to make affordable homes available.

    The Government’s definition of Affordable Housing is: housing for sale or rent, for those whose needs are not met by the market, (including housing that provides a subsidised route to home ownership and/or is for essential local workers).

    The information below details all the different types of Affordable Housing and how to apply for a home or view the properties currently available.

    Affordable Housing for rent

    Affordable homes which are rented are frequently known as “Council housing”, social rented housing, or housing association homes. They are let at least 20% below local market rents (including service charges where applicable) and are generally managed by housing associations (registered providers) or the Council. For example, if the full market rent is £500 per month, eligible affordable housing applicants will pay £400 per month. Some affordable rented homes are let at lower rates than 20%; these are called social rents and tend to apply to older properties.

    Affordable or social rented housing is available to any household who has a local connection to the borough and cannot afford to access market housing, regardless of whether you are working. This type of housing is allocated according to housing need, with those whose current housing situation is the most unsuitable, prioritised first.

    Affordable homes for rent, are advertised through West Cheshire Homes Choice Based Lettings scheme. This scheme allows applicants to ‘bid’ for available properties of their own choice, based on their housing need. You can browse on the West Cheshire Homes website to see which properties are currently and for further information on eligibility. You have to register on the West Cheshire Homes website and complete an application if you want to bid for properties.

    Shared ownership

    Shared ownership is a low-cost home ownership product, sometimes known as part rent, part buy, shared equity or intermediate affordable housing. You buy a share in your home (for example 25%, 50% or 75%) and then pay a small rent to a Housing Association on the share that you don’t own. For example, if you were to take out a mortgage to own 75% of the property, the Housing Association would own the remaining 25%, which you would pay rent towards. Additional shares can be purchased when you are able to afford to do so and this is known as ‘staircasing’. On some schemes you can staircase up, so you own 100% of the property and it becomes a market home. You are still responsible for repairs and maintenance of the property – this is not included in the rent.

    Shared ownership homes are available to any household who cannot afford to access market housing. Owners are encouraged to purchase the largest share their income/savings allow them to, so they pay less rent. They are a useful option for working households on lower incomes, or those who have been homeowners but no longer have an income to support the purchase or maintenance of a market home and may wish to downsize.

    Help to Buy North-West is the Government's affordable housing agent for Cheshire West and can provide details of shared ownership (part rent part buy, low-cost home ownership affordable housing). Further information including eligibility, applications and properties currently available in the borough can be found on the Help to Buy North West website.

    Discounted Market Sale

    Discounted market sale homes are also a low-cost home ownership product and are known as intermediate affordable housing. They are often referred to as discounted sale properties and are offered for sale to eligible purchasers at a discount of at least 20% below local market value. In higher value areas this discount may be up to 40% to make them more affordable. For example, a £100,000 house with a 25% discount would be offered to eligible applicants for £75,000. Eligibility is determined with regard to local incomes and local house prices, and frequently households with a local connection to the area are given priority. This is not a shared ownership scheme and even though there is a discount on the sale price, the purchaser owns 100% of the property, with no additional rent to pay.

    Discounted Market Sale properties must remain as Affordable Homes with no option to convert to a market home, and therefore are not suitable as an investment option for private rent in the future. When you want to sell the property, you must do so on the same terms, which means you must sell it with the same level of discount you received and to someone who meets the criteria for affordable housing. This type of low-cost home ownership is most suited to working households or households with some equity who cannot afford a market home, as applicants will need to provide a reasonable deposit towards their purchase.

    Details of new and resale discounted market sale properties can be found on our Discounted Market Sale page and are also advertised via national property search engines such as Rightmove, Zoopla and On the Market as well as local estate agents.

    First Homes

    First Homes are a new type of affordable housing, proposed by the Government in 2020. Currently there are no First Homes in Cheshire West and Chester as there is a time delay between planning permission being granted and the new properties being built.

    First Homes work similarly to Discounted Market Sale but with a fixed discount of 30% below local market value. They are only available for first time buyers who have a total household annual income below £80,000 and purchasers must have a mortgage or home purchase plan (if required to comply with Islamic law) for at least 50% of the discounted purchase price.

    As this is a new type of affordable housing there are no First Homes built in Cheshire West and Chester, although some are planned over the next few years. Once schemes are up and running, details of the new properties will be advertised via national property search engines such as Rightmove, Zoopla and On the Market as well as by the developer building the site and local estate agents.

    Rent to Buy

    Rent to Buy are a low-cost home ownership option which allow households to rent their home from a Housing Association for a set limited period of time at an affordable rent (80% of a market rent) so they can save for a deposit. The household is then offered the opportunity to purchase the property (at a market value), often with some of the rent they have already paid, being used towards the deposit. Once purchased the property is no longer an affordable home and can be sold or rented without restrictions. If the tenant is unable to purchase at the agreed time, they may not be able to remain in the property as it is frequently sold as a market home at this point.

    There are very few rent to buy, low cost home ownership properties in West Cheshire, although more are planned over the next few years. To view the homes available and make an application, you need to contact the Housing Association who owns them directly, more information can be found on the Help to Buy North West website.

    Help to Buy

    Help to Buy is a Government loan scheme offering two alternative ways of becoming a home owner, rather than a type of affordable housing. It is only available on market properties for sale and not in conjunction with any of the five options above.

    A Help to Buy Equity Loan allows people to purchase a new build property with help from the Government. The Government provides an equity loan for up to 20% of the cost of your new home. You will only need a 5% cash deposit and a 75% mortgage to make up the rest.

    Alternatively, a Help to Buy Mortgage Guarantee Scheme is available. This works in the same way as any other mortgage except that the Government offers lenders the option to purchase a guarantee on mortgage loans. Because of this support from the Government, lenders are encouraged to offer better access to low-deposit mortgages, which means you only need a deposit of 5% to qualify.

    Help to Buy North West is the Government's affordable housing agent for Cheshire West and can provide details of the Government loan schemes available to purchase new build market homes. Further information including eligibility and applications can be found on the Help to Buy North West website.