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Published: 10/07/2020

At a glance

  • Key workers can access special schemes and mortgage deals to purchase (or part-purchase) a home.
  • Those working in the police, fire, prison, NHS, local authority, armed forces or education sectors may qualify.
  • Help to Buy mortgage schemes may be particularly attractive for key workers.

What is a key worker mortgage?

Key worker mortgages are designed to help those in critical public sector roles to buy a new home. This is particularly useful for those who work in high-cost areas, such as London, who cannot afford to buy locally to where they work.

In 2001, the Government launched the Key Worker Living Programme to help public sector workers buy or rent a home at an affordable price. Housing associations and other organisations specifically built affordable homes under the scheme and then made these available to those that were eligible. The scheme ended in 2019 and has since been replaced by several other initiatives. These include:

Help to Buy equity loans

Launched in April 2013, this Government-backed scheme aims to help borrowers secure a 95% loan-to-value (LTV) mortgage on a new build property. Help to Buy equity loans can only be taken out by first time buyers up to a certain price which depends on which part of the country the property is in, and cannot be used to help with the purchase of older properties. They must also be your only residence. Under this scheme, in England and Wales you can borrow 20% of the purchase price interest-free from the Government for the first five years, as long as you have at least a 5% deposit. If you live in London, you can borrow up to 40% of the purchase price from the Government. You borrow the rest (up to 75%, or 55% if you live in London) from a mortgage lender, on a repayment basis. In Scotland, the Government may lend you up to 15% of the total property price.

For more information, check out our Help to Buy mortgages page.

What about the ‘First Homes’ programme?

The First Homes programme is aimed at providing substantial discounts on new homes to key workers and local first-time buyers. All properties will be discounted by a minimum of 30% – a discount that will be passed on to each subsequent buyer – and the first sale must be on properties priced at no more than £250,000 (£420,000 in Greater London) after the discount has been applied.


In order to be eligible to purchase a First Home, you must be a first-time buyer and should have an annual income (or a combined household income if buying with someone else) of no more than £80,000, or £90,000 in Greater London. You’ll need access to a mortgage that can cover a minimum of 50% of the discounted purchase price, plus the required deposit (minimum 5%). There will need to be some form of local connection, too – additional eligibility criteria may be applied by some local authorities – and key workers should be given priority to purchase First Homes in their area.


Find out more on the Government’s Own Your Home website.


Right to buy

This Government scheme is designed to help qualifying secure council and housing association tenants buy their council home at a significant discount and is available in England only. Key workers can take advantage of this scheme if they qualify.

More information can be found at the government’s Right to buy website.

Shared ownership

The English shared ownership scheme allows you to purchase a minimum of 25% up to a maximum of 100% of a property from a housing association. You will pay rent on whatever percentage (if any) remaining, which is still owned by the housing association. For more information, take a look at our guide to shared ownership.

There are separate schemes in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland (called co-ownership), which are broadly in line with the English version with a few small differences. To find out more about the schemes elsewhere in the UK, just click on the links above for the area you are interested in.

Social HomeBuy

An alternative to shared ownership, Social HomeBuy is run by local councils or housing authorities. This grant-funded scheme also helps tenants to purchase a minimum of 25% of their rented home. Tenants again pay rent on the remaining proportion of their home, which is still owned by the landlord.

Homebuilders discounts

It’s important to note that some major homebuilders do offer additional discounts for key workers – normally up to 5% off the purchase price for new build homes. If you are buying a new home from a building company, it’s well worth investigating if they offer a discount to key workers before you start looking for a mortgage or similar scheme to purchase.

Who are key workers?

Key workers are those people who work in, (inter alia/among others) the police, fire, NHS, prison or state education services, as well as members of the armed forces, local authority, probation services and environmental officers. These people are considered as critical to the smooth running of the social infrastructure of the country.

Since the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic, and the consequential UK lockdown that followed, many people have become a lot more familiar with those whose jobs qualify them as key workers – these include, for example, police officers, firefighters, nurses, prison officers and all types of teachers.

However, the term key worker can also be applied to civilian and non-professional staff who work in the qualifying Government employed sectors, which includes porters, administration staff, as well as care workers and teaching assistants.

How can I apply for a key worker mortgage?

Happily, there are a range of mortgage providers who offer discounts and special deals to those considered as key workers. Those who qualify as key workers should contact a mortgage broker who will be familiar with such products and which providers are currently offering these.

Should I speak to a mortgage broker?

Mortgage brokers remove a lot of the paperwork and hassle of getting a mortgage, as well as helping you access exclusive products and rates that aren’t available to the public. Mortgage brokers are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and are required to pass specific qualifications before they can give you advice.


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Disclaimer: This information is intended solely to provide guidance and is not financial advice. Moneyfacts will not be liable for any loss arising from your use or reliance on this information. If you are in any doubt, Moneyfacts recommends you obtain independent financial advice.

At a glance

  • Key workers can access special schemes and mortgage deals to purchase (or part-purchase) a home.
  • Those working in the police, fire, prison, NHS, local authority, armed forces or education sectors may qualify.
  • Help to Buy mortgage schemes may be particularly attractive for key workers.

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