Shared ownership – we can hum the tune, but do we know the words?

Being a part of the National Housing Federation’s new campaign gives us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to take shared ownership into the mainstream.

Jim Munson, Head of Sales and Marketing, Notting Hill Genesis

Jim Munson, Head of Sales and Marketing, Notting Hill Genesis

11 November 2019

It may have been said before but for most people outside of our sector, if shared ownership were a band, you'd have probably heard of them but wouldn't know any of their songs. Banding together now with the Federation and a wide range of housing associations from across the country will rectify this, and lodge some of those lyrics firmly in people’s heads…

Over the course of my (almost) 20 years of working in housing, much of which has focused on the development and promotion of shared ownership, there have been numerous surveys and initiatives designed to highlight the general lack of awareness around the product and then address it.

Plenty of significant steps have been taken to adapt shared ownership and bring it into the 21st century, and it is now more lender-friendly, with simpler eligibility criteria. Staircasing terms have also been made more consistent (and liberalised – the Government is currently consulting on ways to make staircasing more accessible and affordable).

For all this, there have been many product variants and changes in government brands which have cumulatively hampered shared ownership's march into the public consciousness:

  • well-meaning sector brands – hands up if you remember the 'shared ownership: your home, our help' logo (you'll be forgiven if you don't)
  • the emergence of Help to Buy, which has somewhat eclipsed shared ownership in recent years
  • the strength of agency brands (I have been asked many times down the years whether we 'do Share to Buy')

And this is not to mention the heavy use of jargon and technical explainers which have often missed the mark and muddied the waters. This is why the National Housing Federation’s campaign feels like a turning point. It’s creating a simple, strong brand for the whole sector to get behind, to hit home to the public what a great product shared ownership is – with clear message and no confusion.

At the time of writing (October 2019), I’ve just read a report that says that 56% of the country is unaffordable for first-time buyers – another reminder that there is a significant role for shared ownership to play as part of our overall housing mix and push for more new homes.

As a sector though, our localised development sales messaging is often drowned out by the noise around current affairs, better funded advertising campaigns, seasonal events and more. To tackle this we need to pool our collective resources. We need to increase our media buying power and reach across the country. We have the potential to make our message about shared ownership one that people simply must listen to.

The national shared ownership campaign is an opportunity to use a signature hook and brand, a common way of talking about shared ownership that our potential buyers can relate to. It’s a way to cut through to the public with clear, direct messaging, and an opportunity to debunk the myths and misapprehensions that that have followed shared ownership around for years so that, together, we can be better at what we do and make a bigger difference for our customers.

Now that’s what shared ownership means.

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