Five years after buying a 25% share in an East End flat, Harrow Council’s head of regeneration Tobias Goevert still can’t believe his luck
Having lived for more than 10 years in the Hackney-Islington area, Tobias Goevert and his family had sunk down roots.
With wife Simone, he had established a strong network of local friends. Children Robin and Sophie were both in a local primary school alongside their peers from the neighbourhood. And the Regent’s Canal towpath had become their ready – and much used – cycling and walking route into the centre of town.
“We like urban living, rather than being in the suburbs,” explains Tobias, who was at the time a regeneration officer at the Greater London Authority (GLA).
But the family was outgrowing its rented two-bedroom flat in the Zone 2 London borough – and moving on, in an area of escalating property prices, was proving tricky.
“We wanted to stay in the area and we also wanted somewhere nice to live,” says Tobias. “I am an architect by trade and I appreciate a good quality development.
“We couldn’t afford to buy a two-bedroom place on the open market, let alone anything bigger,” he continues. “We could have carried on renting, but my wife would rather we returned to our native Germany than do that. We were really out of options.”
Then they heard about a shared ownership opportunity with Metropolitan in a regenerated part of Hackney’s de Beauvoir neighbourhood. Tobias had come across the concept of shared ownership before, through his work with the GLA.
“Initially, it was all about key workers,” he says, “but now it’s more about living locally, working locally and being in the appropriate income bracket.”
Metropolitan’s “approachable and accommodating” sales team guided them through the purchase of a 25% share in a four-bedroom flat in the Reliance Wharf development, beside the Regent’s Canal.
“It’s a nice mix of private sale, affordable and social housing, together with restaurants and business space,” says Tobias. “The children, now in secondary school, can still walk along the canal. We can actually see the school from our balcony.”
He believes the family’s preference for living in flats helped their cause.
“A lot of families don’t seem to take to living in flats,” notes the 44 year-old, “but we like it. All the two-bedroom flats in the development were bought straight off-plan. Luckily for us, the more unusual four-bedroom flats took a bit longer to shift.
“The shared ownership scheme was an opportunity to buy a large flat in a desirable area that we wouldn’t have had otherwise. The monthly costs [a combination of mortgage, subsidised rent on Metropolitan’s share and service charge] were very competitive. It was brilliant.”
Five years on, Tobias still remembers the day he was handed the keys.
“It felt amazing. We couldn’t believe it. I remember the first morning on the balcony with the family, sitting in the sunshine enjoying the view.”
Since then, the family has developed “great relationships” with the neighbours and Tobias believes that shared ownership has contributed to the vibe.
“Shared ownership people tend to stay longer,” he reasons. “I’d say we have a better community in our block than in normal privately-owned blocks, where there are more sub-lets and people come and go.”
The couple would love to ‘staircase’ – or buy a bigger share of the property – but that’s not easy with two children and one and a half salaries (Simone works part-time) in a high-value area.
“In the five years we’ve been in the flat, property values in the area have gone up considerably, which makes it much more expensive to increase our share,” says Tobias. “I’d advise any new shared owners to look to staircase as quickly as they can, presuming house prices will continue to go up.”
But he has no regrets.
“Shared ownership was the right solution for us. We’re still really happy that we were there at the right time to get a place.
“It’s a well laid out flat in a brave development that includes homes of mixed tenure, offices, a restaurant and public space. It’s hard to think of a better example of a mixed-use unit.”
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