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WTF is affordable house-hunting? Seven ways to help you find a cheaper home

Written by
andy hill

You seek it here, you seek it there, but where is all the affordable housing Londoners are constantly promised as part of big developments? Invariably, by the time a developer has put up a sign outside an attractive-looking plot, all the cheaper units have sold. It does exist - but you have to do your homework.

1. Register with Notting Hill Housing association

This citywide housing association works with private developers on the distribution and sale of their 'affordable' quotas, and it also regularly over-meets its own quotas. Its Camberwell Fields development was only required to include 24 shared-ownership flats, but delivered 120. Newlon is another one worth registering with.

2. Talk to developers directly

'Register with any developers and agencies in the area you're interested in,' advises Wendy Gordon of the Notting Hill Housing Association. This means legwork: literally. Walk around an area and make a note of developers at building sites, then contact them. If you're registered directly you'll get their marketing emails, and first dibs on invites to viewings before the scrum.

3. Get the government to boost your budget

The Department for Communities and Local Government has extended its Equity Loan scheme to 2020. It offers up to 20 percent of the price of a new-build as a five-year, interest-free loan (more info at You need at least a 5 percent deposit, then the government will loan you up to 20 percent, and the remaining 75 percent will be made up by a mortgage.

4. Be flexible

You might have your heart set on a plush two-bed gaff in Dalston, but if you can tolerate a smaller place a bit further out you're much more likely to get on to a scheme. Thanks to 'staircasing' (if you're in a shared-ownership scheme, the opportunity to 'buy-in' to a greater share of the property) before long you could be living in something a little more palatial.

5. Make yourself mortgage-friendly

The length of time you've been with your employer, or at least in the same industry, matters, so perhaps now isn't the time to jack in your comfortable IT sinecure and do that tie-dye lingerie start-up. 'Don't confuse "affordable" with "cheap",' says Gordon. 'It's a serious financial commitment, and you'll need to prove you're capable of making the payments in the long term.'

6. Be local

Some London boroughs (Hammersmith & Fulham, Wandsworth) have their own waiting list for affordable housing schemes which you need to be registered on. Others (notably Lambeth) welcome applicants from all over London, though locals are given priority. Even if you don't live there, working in your target borough is a big plus.

7. Have a baby

Bit drastic, perhaps, but under many schemes (notably shared-ownership) sprogs are something of a golden ticket. For example: you're generally allowed to apply for a home with one bedroom more than you need. So a couple can apply for a two-bedroom property; however, they'll likely be beaten to the punch if another couple with a nipper are also in the running.

Want more property tips? Take a look at the ten stages of flat hunting in London.

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