The City Council will consult with school heads over the coming weeks to review a housing loan scheme to help local teachers purchase homes in Oxford and continue working in the city.
The Council set up the Teachers Loan Scheme in partnership with Catalyst Housing in 2014 in response to the difficulties which primary schools in deprived areas of the city were experiencing in recruiting senior staff. The scheme offers low interest loans which bridge the gap between the price of a suitable property in Oxford and what an applicant can afford by way of a normal commercial mortgage.
In 2016 the Council broadened the eligibility criteria to include secondary schools and also allow younger teachers to apply. Since then, eight applications have been received, mostly from secondary school teachers. Two loans have subsequently advanced to purchase while other applicants are looking for properties to buy.
Properties can be new or second hand and must be the main residence and appropriate to the needs of the household. They also must be either freehold or have a lease of a minimum of 99 years, have a maximum value of £500,000, and be within reasonable travelling time of the eligible schools. The loan will be between 15% and 40% of the price of the property, and the maximum loan is £75,000.
In reviewing the scheme, the Council will repeat the exercise it carried out in the early stages of the scheme where head teachers and their senior management teams were interviewed on staffing issues and access to housing. The Council is open to considering ideas to vary the loan criteria and improve take-up.
Oxford is one of the most unaffordable cities to live in England and has just 48% of its population owning their own home compared to 63% in England. The city also has a high proportion of households living in private rented accommodation (28%) compared to that found in the South East and England (both of which are around 16%).
The Council is working to drive up standards in the private rented sector and ensure that tenants are protected from unfair practices by landlords, such as illegal eviction. Through its interventions to stop illegal evictions, the Council has prevented more than 110 households from becoming homeless since April 2017.
Cllr Marie Tidball, Board Member for Young People, Schools and Public Health, said: “The scheme came about as an innovation in response to the difficulties that local schools in the educational attainment programme were facing in recruiting and retaining key staff, and it was shaped by strong input from head teachers. In keeping with that original engagement with stakeholders, we are going back to talk to staff in schools to find ways to improve take-up through reviewing criteria. We’re looking at options to expand the scheme to include newly qualified teachers, and to encourage co-ownership with other teachers, for example.
“The reason why take-up has been slow is due to the twin tensions of reduced real term pay to teachers nationally and the national housing crisis. Pay fell for teachers with 15 years’ experience, for example, by 12% between 2005 and 2015! The government must act: this is shameful when other developed countries have seen teachers’ pay up an average of 6% for primary and 4% for secondary schools. The government needs to intervene to take serious measures to protect renters, for example, by making three year tenancies the norm and place an inflation cap on rent rises. This is what would really ease the situation for teachers wanting to stay in the rental market.”