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Ownplace article in The Liverpool Echo, February 13 2008

 

Home in on discount scheme

Feb 13 2008 by Susan Lee, Liverpool Echo

Home in on discount scheme

WANTING your own home is one thing. Being able to afford it is quite another.

With the national average cost of a house now in excess of £200,000 getting onto the property ladder in the first place can seem an insurmountable task.

Now a new scheme, pioneered on Merseyside, may help the thousands of would-be purchasers desperate for their own address as well as offering new hope to streets blighted by boarded-up properties and buy-to-let landlords.

Called Ownplace the unique concept, backed by social housing landlord The Riverside Group, offers a 25% discount on a range of properties.

Most will have been previously vacant or rented out for long periods and all are in different states of repair.

Some will have been refurbished before sale, others will need re-decoration and upgrading and still others may require more comprehensive work - although nothing that a competent DIYer and those who have access to skilled labour via friends and family can’t tackle.

All the properties, currently situated in parts of Liverpool, Wirral and St Helens, are designed with owner-occupiers in mind and won’t be sold to investors, developers or landlords.

But in return for the discount, worth in some cases tens of thousands of pounds, buyers must agree to live in the properties for at least five years, or else pay the 25% discount back to Riverside.

They must also undertake to live in the houses themselves and not rent them out.

In this way Riverside hopes to breathe new life into communities and stop the cycle of buy-to-let landlords and short term tenants which often lead to streets and areas becoming run down.

“Riverside has identified problems in certain areas due to tenant imbalance and wanted to resolve those issues,” explains John Williams of estate agents Brennan Ayre O'Neill and a member of a working group invited by Riverside to come up with innovative ways of disposing of problematic housing stock.

“The first phase late last year saw 21 houses being offered, the next phase will see more than 40 and the interest has been enormous.

“The discount of 25% is a crucial amount for so many people.”

He says between £12,000 and £14,000 has been earmarked to be spent on each property making it structurally sound – much less than a complete renovation which then allowed Riverside to pass on the savings to the house buyer.

It is an idea which has been the answer to Kevin Webster’s prayers.

At 27 the project worker remained living at home with his parents in Anfield and admits he found the prospect of borrowing big sums of money to afford his own home frightening.

“I’m a single man on a decent wage but I went to see a mortgage advisor and within 10 minutes we were looking at a mortgage of £115,000.

“It’s no wonder people get into debt; it’s mind blowing.”

He came across the Ownplace scheme while surfing the internet and went to look at some of the properties on offer.

“I applied to be part of the scheme, filled in the forms last June and then forgot about it. In November I was told I’d been successful. I was made up.”

He is now looking forward to moving into a two bedroom terraced home in Longfellow Street within the next few weeks. It’s market value is £62,500 but he bought it for just over £46,500.

The Riverside Group fitted new UPVC windows and front door, new gas central heating and upgraded the electrics.

“I’m going to put in a new kitchen and bathroom but that’s within my budget. For what I need it is ideal.

“I can’t wait to be a home owner with my own front door key at last.”

Most Ownplace houses are grouped together and Riverside hopes it will make a real difference to previously problematic areas.

Work is due to start on the next phase in South Wallasey, Picton, Lodge Lane and Holt Road and Parr and Haydock in St Helens next month.

For more information on Ownplace call 0151 343 1170 or visit www.ownplace.org

link to the original article on the Liverpool Echo website