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First-time buyers get helping hand onto property ladder

The initiative, commissioned by Westminster Council and provided by Catalyst Housing Group, will not only offer information on shared-ownership and discounted rented schemes, but will also inform first-time buyers about ideas to help them to get on to the property ladder with financial assistance such as Government-backed low-interest equity loans.

To be eligible for the service, people must be first-time buyers or not have owned a home for the past two years, live or work in Westminster and have a maximum household income of £60,000.

Despite the downturn in the housing market, Westminster continues to be one of the most expensive areas in the country to live with an average two-bedroom flat costing almost £549,000 – putting off many people from living in central London.

By 2012, it is hoped that around 1000 people who live or work in the city will have taken advantage of "intermediate" housing opportunities – where a family pays more than the price of living in social housing but less than the market price when renting or buying.

Philippa Roe, Westminster Council’s cabinet member for housing, said: "First-time buyers are very keen to live in central London but they have typically been priced out of the market by some of the most expensive prices in the country.

"This leaves many people who work in Westminster paying a very high percentage of their pay in commuting costs. These people, however, are the engine of our economy and we should be supporting them, particularly during these tough economic times.

"In the past, finding out what opportunities were available has sometimes been confusing with too many organisations offering their services but this initiative gives people one contact, making it much easier. This new service will ensure first-time buyers and people who want to rent in the heart of London can find the best possible homes to suit their needs."

David Ellis, Director of Catalyst Housing Group, said: "We are extremely excited to be working with Westminster Council to provide such an important service for first-time buyers in the city.

"We believe that finding a home is much more than simply a financial consideration. Through the Homeownership Westminster service we aim to provide people with a ‘one-stop-shop’ where they can obtain information and advice on identifying a suitable home in the heart of London that not only meets their affordability, but also their aspirations."

The new service provides:

* Assistance with registering interest for home-ownership opportunities;

* Information about specific home-ownership opportunities available for first-time buyers;

* Specialist advice such as debt counselling, financial or employment advice to help improve their home-ownership prospects.

Details of specific developments, initiatives and eligibility considerations are available at www.homeownershipwestminster.co.uk. Each application will be assessed on an individual basis.

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