Following the recent APPG on Housing and Care for Older People Inquiry report on shared ownership and housing in later life, this guest blog for the Housing LIN describes the work undertaken by Saffron Housing Trust to promote and market their new, mixed-tenure independent living development, Swallowtail Place, including Older Persons Shared Ownership.
About the scheme
Swallowtail Place, previously a Norfolk County Council care home called Herondale, used to provide nursing care for a maximum of 34 people over the age of 65, in single-bed rooms. Towards the end of its life, Herondale began to offer only respite care rather than permanent homes and was operated by Age UK.
The building became redundant and had been derelict for some time when the council approached Saffron to develop the site as Independent Living Plus. We bought the land from Norfolk County Council in September 2020. In partnership with Homes England and the Council, it was an excellent opportunity to re-develop and enhance the appearance of the local area, so we were really excited about the prospect.
Completed last year, the development is a 58-apartment independent living scheme situated in Acle, between Norwich and Great Yarmouth and is made up of 41 affordable rent apartments and 17 shared ownership apartments. The site is in a great location, close to the town and other amenities, allowing residents to remain independent and still feel integrated in the local community.
Our approach to sales
We decided to adopt an early approach to advertisement, with Computer Generated Imagery (opens new window) (CGIs) to promote the potential of the scheme and the individual apartments. This is because we recognised that take up may be a bit slower than traditional sales as the client base may not be actively looking online for this property type. We recognised that downsizing or conversations with family about moving to a property which tailors for people either currently needing care, or may have care needs to plan for, may not be easier and may therefore take more time.
Advertising and promoting
We also felt it was really important to provide training to the estate agents, to ensure that the Older Persons Shared Ownership (OPSO) scheme was not mis-sold or misunderstood by prospective purchasers. We also wanted to ensure that the adverts were clear and all publications about OPSO or the scheme were transparent and easy to understand. It was crucial that the estate agents and Saffron sales officers understood that harsh sales tactics were to be avoided, so we made sure that no canvassing took place. This was so our target audience didn’t feel we were intimidating or forcing any sales; we wanted this to be purely the decision of the purchaser and their support network, with Saffron facilitating this for them.
To help prospective purchasers visualise what their future home could be, we ensured that there were two show apartments, early on, where people could come along to the site and view a completed one and two-bedroom apartment.
We led on a variety of promotional events, inviting the local community of Acle, located between Norwich and Great Yarmouth, and key stakeholders along, to provide a full understanding of the scheme and how the Older Persons Shared Ownership product could assist those aged over 55 who may have current care needs or simply planning for the future, understand what the scheme could bring and the community that could be built by living there.
As with other similar organisations, the downturn in the market created challenges for us at Swallowtail Place and our OPSO sales, which we could not have anticipated. Although this did not affect our purchasers directly, the related sales were affected. We extended the reservation period to help buyers if they were impacted by the economic climate as it enabled them to progress their related sales or find new purchasers if the chain did unfortunately fall through.
We currently have all apartments spoken for, with six completions from December 2022 to March 2023, a further five completions estimated for April to June, with the remaining moving through the reservation process. The scheme has been a fantastic project to work on. We have received lots of positive feedback from tenants, their families, and our partners. Seeing Swallowtail Place come to fruition has been really rewarding.
If you found this of interest, sign up to join the Housing LIN HAPPI Hour webinar on Tuesday, 23 May 2023, Shared Ownership for our Ageing Population (SO-HAPPI), when we will be joined by speakers from Saffron Housing Trust along with chair of the APPG Inquiry report, Lord Best.
And for copies of the APPG SO-HAPPI Inquiry report, click on the link to ‘Making retirement living affordable: The role of shared ownership housing for older people’.