Jonathan and Nichola

Jonathan and Nichola Houghton had been renting for many years, trying their best to save to buy a house of their own. Through Grand Union’s shared ownership scheme, they were able to do just that – ensuring the couple and their two children, Isla, eight, and Harry, four, and beloved dog Bruno, have the space they need to enjoy family life.

Jonathan, 39, said: “We moved into our brand-new home in Cranfield in June 2020, and have never looked back. Nichola and I were both born and bred in Cranfield so it’s great that our kids are growing up in the same area.

“The estate is lovely and our house picturesque. It looks like a pretty, English countryside cottage – a two up, two down classic property with beautiful features.

“Nichola and I had been renting since we moved in together in our early twenties. We’d been saving for ages and looking at buying a property, but it always seemed like a distant dream.

“What’s more, at the age of 25, I was diagnosed with Lupus. It’s a condition which affects me everywhere, from my joints and muscles, to my blood and organs. I’ve been in and out of hospital with complications including ulcerated colitis and even suffered a small stroke during my twenties. Because of this, I was unable to continue work running a cleaning company and as a salesman, meaning it was even harder for Nichola and I to save money.”

It was in the beginning of February 2020 that the couple first heard about the Cranfield shared ownership development. They’d been renting a garage from Grand Union and when they saw the opportunity advertised in a newsletter, they immediately put their names down.

“We were blown away by the proposed building plans and knew a local builder involved in the project – we had no idea a shared ownership home could look so beautiful. To our surprise, our offer was accepted, and we couldn’t wait for the property to be finished.

“Sadly, because of the coronavirus pandemic, some of the building work had to be put on hold. Nevertheless, Grand Union’s New Homes Officer Andrea Fisher was always on hand to help and we even had a sneaky peak of the development during lockdown, through safety glass and at a safe distance of course.

“The pandemic made moving house even more stressful than it usually is – not least because I was shielding due to my long-term health conditions. Andrea made it so much easier and even helped advise us when our mortgage offer was pulled out last minute and we had to liaise with a new bank. Everyone at Grand Union was really helpful and understanding.

“Once we moved in, we were so happy. It’s wonderful to live in the village we’d called home for most of our lives, on a lovely estate. The house is much bigger than our last place, and it makes all the difference.

“Harry no longer sleeps in a cupboard-sized room, that could simply fit a single bed, a bookcase and very little else. His room is three times bigger and Isla’s room is larger too. Downstairs, we’ve got so much more space and can’t wait to replace our furniture in the near future. Everything seems so much smaller now we’re in a bigger house!

“Nichola’s also excited to do some interior decorating after we’ve been here for some time. It already looks fantastic and contemporary, but she always likes to put her own stamp on things and let her creative juices flow. She runs a beauty salon, which she’s owned for more than a decade, so she’s very artistic.

“Going forward, we plan to buy more shares so eventually we own 100% of the property – which is known as staircasing. Due to my ill health, it’s a relief to know we have somewhere secure to live; when we were renting we were never sure about what was coming round the corner and feared we may have to move out at the drop of a hat. Now, the security we feel is invaluable and we can begin to plan ahead.

“The kids have thoroughly enjoyed the garden during lockdown and the summer holidays; we installed a trampoline, built in the ground, which brings them so much joy. Our beloved chocolate Labrador Bruno also approves of the bigger garden!

“We’re enormously grateful for Grand Union’s support. Without the shared ownership scheme, and guidance from staff members, it would have been very hard for us to get on the property ladder. The house has made such a difference to our lives and we’re looking forward to a happy future here.”