Next year will certainly bring its challenges, but if our industry can handle 2020, we can handle anything…
None of us could have seen 2020 coming. And while plenty has already been said about the ups and the (many) downs of a year gone mad, I just want to quickly acknowledge and acclaim my colleagues from across the industry. Lenders and Housing Associations truly came together and supported each other this year, and human kindness shone through in so many unexpected places. Friends and allies appeared from nowhere and I genuinely feel that our sector is a kinder, better place because of it.
It could have been so easy for us to achieve next-to-nothing this year, but we actually achieved a lot – and for that, we ought to give ourselves a collective pat on the back.
Of course, the amazing news is that a vaccine is here and we can slowly start restoring some sort of order in 2021, but – and I hate to be the bearer of bad news here – there are undoubtedly some black clouds ahead…
I can’t quite believe that I’m writing this in mid-December and we still don’t really know what Brexit is going to mean for our industry. And while I would hope that from a lending point of view it won’t make a massive difference, we just don’t have a clue what the ramifications will be. Santander recently put out a statement to say that a requirement for lending might be that the applicant would need to be a resident of the UK, but again it’s unclear how easy it will be for foreign nationals to gain residency (and we process a lot of applications from foreign nationals).
While the situation’s being ironed out, I guess all we can do is keep on communicating with each other and keeping everyone informed of the latest developments.
The consultation paper
The government’s recent report has just been published and it’s clear that there is a desire and a drive to realign Shared Ownership. To achieve this, some recommendations have been made, but I’m not sure that they’re appropriate or even well thought out.
The matter of reduced shares (from 25% minimum to 10%) is one example, and while I’m not suggesting that it won’t work, it does feel that it’s devaluing the whole aspect of owning a home. If you buy just 10% of your house, will it feel as if it’s even really yours? And I say that while recognising that home ownership shouldn’t be heralded as the be-all and end-all; it’s clearly not right for everyone all the time.
I’m also disappointed that several other issues have not been covered by the consultation paper, and that some of our shared challenges have not been addressed. Perhaps it’s worth returning to this subject another time…
A bit of balance
It’s not all bad news, of course. The good news is that there’s an end in sight to the delays from lenders. We will be all square at some point in the not-too-distant future and that’s something I really welcome because it has been difficult at times (for everyone involved).
In addition, there are new lenders coming into the market in 2021 and that will have a hugely positive impact, which is very exciting. We’ll also be welcoming back some lenders that had withdrawn from Shared Ownership and that’s got to be good news.
And let’s not forget, mortgage rates remain super low! It’s easy to overlook the fact that we live in a world where rates are sub 4% at 95%, and where lots of banks and building societies are keen to help thousands of people to buy homes. Overall, it’s a positive time and a growing market and that’s something to be thankful for.
So, we’re heading into 2021 perhaps a little bit bruised and definitely a little cautious, but after the year we’ve just had, I know we can handle anything. We’ve had 12 months of confronting challenges, adapting, reacting, learning and overcoming, and I’m sure that, whatever 2021 throws at us, we’ve got the will and the ability to make the most of it.
If fact, I’d go so far as to say that everything’s in place to make it a really good year. So until then, have a wonderful, well-deserved break and very Merry Christmas.