DOUBTS have been raised over the viability of Winchester City Council’s new shared housing scheme.

The new Partnered Home Purchase (PHP) pilot scheme, which is currently scheduled to launch in March, would see the council invest £1,643,000 to help ten people get on the housing ladder through shared ownership.

The scheme, aimed at first time buyers, and those who live or work in the district would see the council purchase the buyer’s chosen property outright, and lease a share between 50 and 70 per cent to the home buyer through a 125-year shared ownership lease. The home buyer would then obtain a mortgage for their share of the property, and pay a monthly rent to the council on the remaining share.

The home buyer can then acquire a higher share in the property through purchasing some or all of the council’s share (known as ‘staircasing’). If they staircase to own 100 per cent of the property, they will acquire the freehold from the council and thus have full ownership rights. Alternatively, the home buyer can sell the property, with the permission of the council and receive proceeds for the share that they own.

However, city councillor Nicki Elks said that despite initially supporting the scheme she was concerned about the effect that market forces and the current economic climate would have on the scheme, which will cost the council a significant amount of money.

“House prices in London outside of Mayfair have reduced by 7 per cent,” she said.” I have not been able to find any evidence of how it would be evaluated. We need a proper time table and measurable success criteria.”

In response to the councillor’s concerns, Cllr Guy Ashton, portfolio holder for finance, said he believed that the £2 million investment was fixed, and that if house prices declined it would help people to leverage in at a lower cost and if they wanted to sell at a later date it could help shore up social housing stock.

“Housing is a long term investment. We don’t want to wait 40 years to determine whether it is a winner. We have an experienced and capable housing department that knows how to deal with tennants and housing.”

He added: “ If eight apply and we expected ten, we will not think about doing this further. If 2000 apply that would give us confidence to take it further.”

Council corporate director Joseph Holmes said: “ This is for individuals with a desire to buy and live in the area, it is not designed to help make a quick buck, but help people keen to invest in the district.”

Cllr Jan Warwick said: “I was really excited about this and I’m so happy its come to fruition, it’s such an excellent scheme that will help people who want to stay in the area, stay in the area.”

Cllr Ashton said: “Affordability of housing in Winchester is an issues due to the cost of housing in comparison to average income.

“It is vital our residents have access to quality housing at affordable prices and the pilot Partnered Home Purchase Scheme is one of a number of ways the council is trying to help local residents get on the housing ladder. The scheme is one of a number of measures we are taking – we are ‘thinking outside the box’ and embracing a more entrepreneurial approach.”