Housing

Two thirds of Help to Buy homeowners didn't need financial support

Only a third of people who used the scheme were not well off enough to buy property without the government's help

London, England, United Kingdom - February 11, 2015: FOR SALE and TO LET real estate agent signs outside residential housing development in Hackney. Many house rental and sales agency signs in a row. Multiple sign boards.

Up to 63 per cent of people who bought houses through the Help to Buy scheme already had enough money to buy without it, a report has found.

Spending watchdog the National Audit Office (NAO) revealed that while the scheme did increase homeownership for first-time buyers, it handed billions of pounds to people who didn’t need the financial help to buy a property.

The Help to Buy initiative was introduced by George Osborne in 2013 to help people get onto the property ladder.

The government gives out loans of up to 20 per cent of the property value (40 per cent in London) to help people get over the obstacle of a large deposit.

Under the Help to Buy ISA, launched in 2015, savers get a 25 per cent bonus when they withdraw the money they have saved to buy their first home.

But instead, the NAO said, it has handed cash to the rich and boosted the profits of building firms – five of which took half of all sales made through the scheme.

Fran Boait, executive director of financial campaign group Positive Money, said: “It’s now beyond clear that rather than helping those who can’t afford to buy a home, Help to Buy has mainly been a subsidy for a housing bubble, benefiting property developers and existing home owners.”

As much as £11.7bn was given out in 211,000 subsidy loans, money which the government says it likely won’t see again until 2031.

It was too soon to say if Help to Buy had proved taxpayer value for money, according to the report.
“Help To Buy has increased home ownership and housing supply, particularly for first-time buyers,” Gareth Davies, head of the NAO, said.
The scheme is poorly targeted and poor value

“However, a proportion of participants could have afforded to buy a home without the government’s help.

“The scheme has also exposed the government to significant market risk if property values fall, as well as tying up a significant public financial capacity.

“The government’s greatest challenge now is to wean the property market off the scheme with as little impact as possible on its ambition of creating 300,000 homes a year by 2021,” he said.

The NAO report showed that only 37 per cent of people who have benefited from the Help to Buy scheme would not have been able to afford to buy a home without it.

And – in what the Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government described as an “acceptable consequence” of the initiative’s design – one in 25 people who bought through the scheme had a household income of more than £100,000.

Labour’s shadow housing secretary John Healey said Help to Buy isn’t serving its purpose or helping the people who need it.

He said: “This report confirms the fundamental flaws in Help to Buy which ministers have failed to fix.

“One in five helped by Help to Buy aren’t even first-time buyers. The current scheme is poorly targeted and poor value for taxpayers’ money.”

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