Pinsent Masons advises on pioneering West Midlands Combined Authority 'Help to Own' home ownership scheme

13 May 2021 | 09:49 am | 3 min. read

Multinational law firm Pinsent Masons has advised City of Wolverhampton Council, The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and Frontier Development Capital Ltd (FDC), on the establishment of an innovative housing scheme designed to help people struggling to get on the property ladder, including Covid-19 key workers.

'Help to Own', a pioneering regional home ownership scheme, will provide the opportunity for people to get on the property ladder without a deposit and ultimately choose whether to buy their home for £1 on expiry of their lease. The scheme, created by fund management business FDC, was successfully launched in March. The joint venture, formed by the City of Wolverhampton Council and WMCA, has purchased 100 homes on The Marches site in Wednesfield, Wolverhampton as part of the transaction.

The pilot site at The Marches is offering tenants the ability to rent two, three or four bedroom quality new-build homes for the long-term. As the tenants make their monthly payments, the scheme anticipates they will build up a Loyalty Premium. Tenants can take their Loyalty Premium as cash if they leave the scheme within the first 20 years, or alternatively use it to obtain a tenancy for another five years and choose whether to buy their home for £1 on the 25th anniversary.

Pinsent Masons advised on establishment of the structure and governance, services arrangements with FDC, financial services regulatory aspects, the acquisition of the initial property portfolio at The Marches and a related acquisition finance facility. The Marches scheme is currently under development with City of Wolverhampton Housing Company (WV Living) as the developer.

The Pinsent Masons team was led by corporate real estate partner Robert Moir and included legal director Catherine Hemsworth, tax senior consultant Richard Croker, real estate senior associate Katy Peacock and associate Katie Farrelly, financial services partners Andrew Barber and David Doogan, financial services senior associates Alice Bell and Jonathan Vickers and associate Jennifer Griffith.

Robert Moir commented: "It has long been acknowledged that the UK has significant demand for high-quality long-term housing, and the launch of this innovative product seeks to address this head on. The flexibility of the scheme means that no deposit is required, which can be a considerable barrier for many, and it enables tenants to create value from their rental payments over time. This demonstrator project is a real first for the UK's housing sector, and is likely to ignite similar schemes across the country."

City of Wolverhampton Council Leader, Councillor Ian Brookfield, said: “We are delighted our city has launched this ground-breaking initiative that will give local people the opportunity to get on the property ladder and own new, quality homes. Pinsent Masons provided excellent legal support in helping the partners work through the complexities of establishing the scheme, which will make home ownership more accessible.  Under this scheme, homes will also be prioritised at the Marches for key workers – people like our fantastic NHS frontline staff just down the road at New Cross Hospital, who have protected our city during the Covid-19 pandemic."

"We are in a great position to bring forward a scheme like this because the Council has its own well-established housing company, WV Living.  WV Living is delivering high quality homes at the Marches and across the city to help speed up the delivery of new homes, using vacant sites overlooked by private sector developers.  As a Council we are committed to delivering more and better homes for all, and this pioneering ‘Help to Own’ scheme is not only a fantastic opportunity for local people to benefit – but could also be a game changer in home ownership nationally.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA, said: “Help to Own is an exciting and pioneering scheme that can make the dream of home ownership a more realistic one for hard working people across the region.  It builds on our success in doubling the number of homes being constructed in the West Midlands since 2011 and in unlocking many acres of derelict industrial land for housing, helping to protect our green belt.  Our goal is to build thousands of good quality, affordable homes for local people and I’m especially pleased that Help to Own will prioritise key workers, including our wonderful NHS staff who have been on the frontline against the coronavirus pandemic for more than a year.  Pinsent Masons has provided valuable support in turning that initial idea of buying your home for just £1 into an easy and attractive offer for the public.  We now want to see the scheme rolled out across the West Midlands and beyond.”

'Help to Own' is the creation of FDC, a fund manager headquartered in Birmingham, that has set up newco My Generation Group Ltd to deliver the pilot scheme.  Sam Miller, Commercial Director, New Propositions at FDC commented: “Help to Own has been in development for a long time prior to its recent launch and our vision has remained consistent throughout; we want to support Generation Rent to get on the property ladder. Ongoing legal advice and expertise from the team at Pinsent Masons has been invaluable in transforming Help to Own from a unique idea that tackles the housing challenges in the UK, into a deliverable scheme that works for all parties, especially prospective tenants. We look forward to working with Pinsent Masons in the future as we continue our partnership with the WMCA and CWC joint venture through the next phases of The Marches development.”

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