Affordable housing schemes

There are a number of government schemes to help you buy a home such as Help to Buy, Right to Buy, Shared Ownership, and more. As Armed Forces personnel, you have 'priority status' to access them whilst serving, and for a further 24 months after you leave (except for schemes in Northern Ireland). You don't have to have a family to be eligible. 

Your first steps

Forces Help to Buy Scheme

To get you started, there's the Forces Help to Buy scheme, which was launched on 1 April 2014 and will run until April 2018. The scheme allows you an advance of salary of up to 50% of your annual salary, up to a maximum of £25,000 to be used towards a deposit and other costs such as solicitor’s and estate agent’s fees.

Help to Buy ISA

Save money in a Help to Buy cash ISA and get a government top up of 25% of your savings when you're ready to buy a home. So, for every £200 you save, receive a government bonus of £50. The maximum government bonus you can receive is £3,000.

Key benefits to you

Common to all of the government affordable housing schemes in England, Scotland and Wales are the following key benefits:

  • Priority status begins from the date that you are on trained strength, as long as you meet the eligibility criteria.
  • You can let (rent out) your property to someone else if you are posted, as long as your mortgage lender agrees.
  • You can apply to buy a property through a scheme in any region, in order to settle your family – it doesn’t have to be near your duty station.
  • You can apply for a property from an overseas station and let it until you return to the UK, provided you intend to occupy it long term.
  • Once you have a property, it doesn’t matter if your circumstances change. If you leave the Armed Forces, you do not have to vacate or sell the property, and no additional financial penalties will apply.
  • You will retain your priority status for 24 months after you leave the Armed Forces.
  • In the event of death in service, priority access to the schemes for 24 months is transferred to bereaved spouses, civil partners and other partners of Service personnel.

Special arrangements apply if you have received a lump-sum payment under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS).

  • If you need adaptations made to the property, the AFCS payment will be disregarded when you are assessed for a Disability Facilities Grant in England and Wales, or grants for disabled adaptations in Scotland.
  • In England and Wales, the AFCS payment will be disregarded when scheme providers assess how much you can afford to pay. In Scotland, your compensation payment may be disregarded when making the assessment – it depends on your circumstances.

Help to Buy equity loan

You can get a low-interest loan towards your deposit. This is called an equity loan. It can only be used for your primary residence. However, Armed Forces personnel are allowed to sub-let if they are stationed away from home. The key features are:

  • Available to first-time buyers and existing homeowners who want to buy a ‘new build’ house.
  • The purchase price must be no more than £600,000 in England (or £300,000 in Wales).
  • The government will lend you up to 20% (up to 40% in London) of the purchase price interest-free for the first five years as long as you have a 5% deposit.
  • You need a mortgage of up to 75% for the rest (up to 55% in London)
  • You must buy your home from a registered Help to Buy builder - your Help to Buy agent should have a list.
As well as the England scheme, there are separate Help to Buy equity loan schemes in Scotland and Wales which have different upper price limits. See the Help to Buy (England),  Help to Buy Wales and Geting help to buy your home (Scotland) for more information.

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Right to Buy/Right to Acquire

  • Right to Buy is for tenants in England, Wales and Northern Ireland who rent their home from their local council. It allows tenants, who qualify, to buy their home at a discount. The size of the discount varies depending on where you live and the type of property you want to buy.
  • Tenants who were living in council homes before it transferred to another landlord such as a housing association, may be eligible to buy their home under the ‘Preserved’ Right to Buy or Right to Acquire schemes.
  • In most cases, tenants will need to have rented from the public sector (ie local council or housing association) for three years before they can buy under these schemes.
  • Time spent as a tenant in Armed Forces accommodation can also count towards the qualification time for Right To Buy.
  • The three years can be non-consecutive, so tenants who have rented from the private sector in the middle of a total of three years renting from the public sector, can still qualify.
  • The Right to Buy scheme has now been extended to include housing association tenants in England. This extension started with a few housing associations in certain areas. It was then rolled out across the rest of England over the year. See the Right to Buy website for more information.
  • In Scotland, the Scottish Government ended the Right to Buy scheme on 1 August 2016, but there are other schemes available.

Right to Acquire is a scheme offered in England and Wales for housing association tenants who don’t qualify for Right to Buy. The discounts are smaller. You can apply to buy your housing association home if you’ve had a public sector landlord for three years. These landlords include housing associations, councils, the armed services and NHS trusts and foundation trusts. See Right to Aquire on

In Northern Ireland this scheme is called the House sales scheme and is for tenants who rent from the Northern Ireland Housing Executive or a housing association. Find out more on the nidirect website.

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Shared ownership

  • Shared ownership is where you buy a share of a home from the landlord, who is usually the council or a housing association, and rent the remaining share.
  • You need a mortgage to pay for your share, which can be between a quarter and three-quarters of the home’s full value.
  • You then pay a reduced rent on the share you don’t own and you have the option later on to buy a bigger share in the property up to 100% of its value.
  • The eligibility restrictions on the shared ownership have lifted. Anyone who has a household income of less than £80,000 (outside London) or £90,000 (inside London) can buy a home through shared ownership.

Only military personnel get priority over other groups and this priority has been extended to 24 months after leaving Service for ex Service personnel and their bereaved partners. 

The scheme will apply across England - See Shared ownership on the Help to Buy website. 

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Co-Ownership in Northern Ireland

This scheme is exclusive to Northern Ireland and is available for both newly built and older homes. You buy between 50% and 90% of the property (known as the ‘starter share’) and can increase that share at any time (known as ‘staircasing’). You pay rent on the portion you don’t own. Find out more on the Housing Advice NI website. Visit the Co-Ownership website.

Homes for Londoners

This scheme aims to help low and modest income earners buy or rent at a price that’s affordable. You part buy and part rent the property – mostly for newly-built homes but some other properties are included. There are eligibility criteria based on earnings and you can’t buy a home on the open market. If you’re looking in London, find out more on the Homes for Londoners property search.

Shared equity schemes

The Help to Buy equity loan scheme is a government scheme currently set to run until 2020. It’s available to first-time buyers as well as homeowners looking to move – but only for newly built homes. See Equity loan on the Help to Buy website or Shared equity on the nidirect website.

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Scotland has two shared equity schemes – New Supply Shared Equity and Open Market Shared Equity. See First Time Buyers on the Scottish Government website. 


The Homebuy scheme offers help by providing an equity loan (30% increasing to 50% of the purchase price), and is designed for people who would otherwise need social housing. The loan can be repaid at any time before the property is sold, but if you sell the property then it must be repaid at that point. Find out more about Welsh home buying schemes at the Wales Government site.

Northern Ireland

There’s an Equity Sharing scheme in Northern Ireland where you can buy a property, often at a discount, with a housing association or the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE).

starter homes

The age restriction is removed for injured military services personnel and those whose partner has died in Service. They must still be first-time buyers though.

Starter Home scheme

The Starter Home scheme is a new government plan where 200,000 new build homes are available to first-time buyers under 40 years old with a minimum of 20% off the market price. The discounted price for these homes should be priced no more than £250,000 outside London, and £450,000 in London. For more information about the homes available in this scheme, visit the New Homes website.

Next steps

Understand how much you can afford to borrow and what lenders assess - see our Getting a mortgage section.

Last reviewed: 30/04/2018