Jury out on Help to Buy 1

Ryan Bembridge

December 9, 2015

Industry commentators have questioned whether the Help to Buy Equity Loan Scheme can be considered a success since its launch on 1 April 2015.

Today’s government figures revealed that 62,569 properties have been purchased with the help of the scheme to 30 September 2015 with a typical purchase price of £217,999. Four in five (81%) loans were to first-time buyers.

The scheme was originally set to run until 2017 but has now been extended until 2020.

My Home Move chief executive Doug Crawford wondered whether the 20% equity loan has done enough for first-time buyers, as the conveyancing firm’s own data revealed that nearly half (47%) of buyers using the scheme rely on a gift from parents for some or all of the deposit.

He said: “The jury is still out on whether the Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme is helping as many first-time buyers as it could.

“Clearly a significant chunk of those using the scheme still require extra help from the Bank of Mum and Dad, even though the scheme means they need a smaller deposit than normal. This means there is a big question mark over what first-time buyers could do without government support.”

The managing director of London estate agent Stirling Ackroyd Andrew Bridges reckoned the scheme has sacrificed the long-term by helping more first-time buyers get on the property ladder now.

He feared the continuation of this process after Chancellor George Osborne announcing the launch of Help to Buy London in the Autumn Statement last month, which will provide a 40% equity loan.

Bridges said: “There is a creeping danger that the government focuses only on shorter-term solutions, and not the long-term challenges too.

“In the long run, there’s only one thing London’s first-time buyers need from the government – more homes to live in, whether as owner or tenant. Planning officials need steadily increasing targets for new homes, not a vaguer preference for rejections.”

He added: “Special schemes like this are a leg-up onto the housing ladder – for today’s potential buyers, not necessarily tomorrow’s.

“Helping current buyers speed up their ambitions is honourable – but is likely to only boost prices further. We’re seeing prices accelerate in the capital again now, even into the winter months.”

The Mortgage Advice Bureau’s new homes director Andy Frankish said the launch of Help to Buy London is welcome news for first-time buyers, but he also praised the government’s emphasis on shared ownership and starter homes.

He said: “The greater focus being placed on shared ownership will help, as will the creation of Starter Homes, but these will need the full support of lenders to have the desired effect. Increased housebuilding will eventually deliver more homeownership opportunities.”

Sign up to our daily email