Affordable housing is aimed at people who are:
- first time buyers
- unable to afford to buy a home on the open market
- looking to rent a home but cannot afford to pay market rents
The Council works closely with housing associations and private developers to make affordable homes available.
There are many different types of affordable housing available including shared ownership, affordable rent, discount for sale properties and Government assisted schemes such as Help to Buy.
Frequently asked questions
What is affordable housing and how does it work
There are several different types of affordable housing available:
1. Discount for sale
Properties are offered for sale to eligible purchasers at a discounted price of the full market value. For example, a £100,000 house with a 25% discount would be offered to eligible applicants for £75,000. This is not a shared ownership scheme and even though there is a discount on the sale price, the purchaser still owns 100% of the property. 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.
'Discount for Sale' properties are subject to a Section 106 Agreement. A Section 106 Agreement can restrict how an affordable property is sold and who it is sold to. As such, not all lenders are happy to lend against a property with these restrictions and it is important to ask your lender about this before progressing with a mortgage application.
2. Shared ownership
If you cannot afford to buy a property outright, shared ownership allows you to part buy and part rent your home. You can buy a share in your home (for example 25%, 50% or 75%) and then pay a small rent to the Housing Association on the share that you don’t. 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 may own up to 100% of the property.
3. Help to Buy
Help to Buy offer two alternative ways of becoming a home owner. Instead of part buying and part renting your property, a Help to Buy equity loan allows people to purchase a new build property with help from the Government. The Government can provide you with 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.
The Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme 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 as small as 5% to qualify.
4. Renting: affordable rent
These are affordable homes that are rented above social rent, but below private sector rents. These properties are generally managed by housing associations and the lower rental cost is usually 80% of the full market rent. For example, if the full market rent is £500 per month, eligible affordable housing applicants will pay £400 per month. (Please note, this is not Social Housing and if you wish to apply for Social Housing you must contact your local Housing Association or visit Trust Home Choice).
These include existing Council or Housing Association properties as well as new Housing Association provision. Affordable homes for rent are made available through West Cheshire Homes – Choice Based Lettings. This scheme allows applicants to ‘bid’ for available properties of their own choice, based on their housing need. Contact details for some of the main housing associations operating in Cheshire West and Chester can be found on our Registered Social landlors page.
If you would like to apply for affordable housing, you need to contact the relevant organisation:
- for shared ownership properties and the Help to Buy scheme contact Help to Buy North West for further information by visiting Help to Buy North West or calling 0845 603 4559. Help to Buy North West is the Government's affordable housing agent for Cheshire West and can provide details of all types of affordable housing other than 'discount for sale' schemes
- for 'discount for sale' affordable homes, you can apply online using the Council's eligibility form. Details of the properties can be found on our Affordable homes available page and you can also contact your ocal estate agent for resales or the relevant developer for new builds
Applicants will be assessed against set criteria for each scheme and every case is assessed on an individual basis. To qualify for an affordable home you need to fulfil the relevant eligibility criteria; every development is different but the criteria usually includes the following:
- your income must be such that you cannot afford to buy or rent a property at open market values in the area.
- you must have an immediate local connection to the area; this often means you must have lived in the area for the last few years or are employed in the area. You might also qualify if have family ties there.
The application process
The following steps need to be followed to apply.
- Complete the Affordable Housing Eligibility Form online and return by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
- The affordable housing team will check the form and assess your eligibility for the property you are applying for.
- You will receive written confirmation of their decision within five working days (providing you have supplied all the information we have requested)
- If you are eligible for the scheme you are applying for, you will need to contact the sales office, or for re-sale properties the estate agent who is marketing the property and provide them with a copy of your eligibility letter.
- If you are not eligible for the scheme you have applied for, your application will be held for six months and you will be able to apply for other schemes during this period providing your circumstances have not changed.
- If you go ahead and complete a purchase on either a new or re-sale discounted affordable property, please notify the Affordable Housing Team of the date of completion via the email address above or by telephoning 0151 356 6410.
There are a variety of affordable homes currently available across Cheshire West, including new developments and discounted re-sales. To view the discounted properties currently available for sale, please visit our Affordable homes available page. To view all other affordable housing options, please visit:
I own a shared ownership/equity property, what happens if I want to sell it
You may sell the property at anytime but you must notify your Housing Association of your intention to sell and they will be able to advise you on the next steps to take.
You may sell the property at anytime but you must notify the Council in writing of your intention to sell your affordable home. The property must be sold with the same discount percentage that you received when purchasing the property.
In order to confirm the value of your property, you will need to obtain and provide the council with three written valuations for the full Open Market Value of the property from three reputable local estate agents. The sales value is then calculated and agreed by taking the average of these three valuations and applying the purchase discount. This is then the maximum sales value which you can sell at through your chosen estate agency.
As this scheme is part of the Low Cost Home Ownership scheme, prospective buyers must be eligible for affordable housing. Once you have chosen your estate agency, the Council will provide the agent with an Affordable Housing Eligibility Form for prospective buyers to complete and return to the Council for assessment.
As well as advertising your property through your chosen estate agents, the Council will also include it on the Available Homes page.
What happens if I cannot find a buyer for my discounted sale home?
The council places considerable importance on the continued provision of affordable housing for those who are unable to buy a market home. However, owners can make an application to the Planning Development Control Team email@example.com for a variation to amend the restrictions on a discounted sale property in special circumstances, for example if there is “no reasonable demand” or they are experiencing financial hardship by continuing to live at the property.
To demonstrate 'no reasonable demand' you must have had your discounted sale home on the property market for at least 12 months, offered at an affordable price or less, to be verified in writing by your estate agent. It is also helpful to provide reports from your estate agent showing where and how the property has been marketed, any price or photo revisions and interest shown on search engines such as Rightmove or Zoopla.
With regard to 'financial hardship' homeowners would need to demonstrate they are unable to afford to stay at their current property, for example due to redundancy or family breakdown or that they need to move to an alternative property due overcrowding or relocation for work and are unable to pay for two properties.
Please note that most discounted sale homes are covered by specific restrictions that prohibit letting. If you rent out your affordable home you may be in breach of planning legislation and the Council can take formal enforcement action against you. If you are struggling to sell or need to move away temporarily, please contact the Affordable Housing Team for advice.
There are a number of common myths around the allocation of rented affordable houses. Allocations for affordable rented accommodation are made to households who meet the eligibility criteria and are prioritised to those in greatest housing need in accordance with the Allocations Policy.
Myth: I have a right to be housed in affordable housing, because I live in privately rented housing currently
Fact: To be eligible for affordable rented homes households must be in housing need, you must be able to demonstrate that you cannot afford your private rental home, you are overcrowded or the property is in serious disrepair which your landlord is not addressing - often people who are in private rented accommodation are deemed by West Cheshire Homes to be adequately housed
Myth: Single people or a couple with no children are eligible for a three bedroom house
Fact: Households are given priority according to their housing need, so it is unlikely a single person or couple who only require one bedroom would be allocated a three bedroom property unless there were exceptional circumstances
Myth: For rural affordable housing, priority is given to those individuals who have been born in the location of the affordable home
Fact: Priority is given to those who have a local connection. Generally local connection means that you currently live in the parish and have done for at least two years or have at any time previously lived in the parish for at least five years; or have a close family connection (mother, father, brother, sister, children) who live in the parish or you work in the Parish - please note there may be other specific local connection criteria for some rural affordable housing
Myth: At a pre-tenancy assessment meeting with a Housing Association you are offered /guaranteed a home
Fact: The meeting is an opportunity for the applicant and registered provider to ask questions to determine suitability for allocation - it should not be assumed that if you attend such a meeting that you will get a property