“Help to Buy is not helping housing crisis, warn MPs”

As they say: No sh*t Sherlock!

“A parliamentary committee has slammed the government’s £12 billion Help to Buy scheme for tying up vast sums of money in a policy that has mostly supported homebuyers who could already afford to buy a property while failing to boost the provision of affordable housing or reduce homelessness.

The public accounts committee found that three fifths of buyers who took part in the scheme did not need it to buy a home. It said that the “large sums of money tied up could have been spent in different ways to address a wider set of housing priorities and focus more on those most in need”.

The committee has called on the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to carry out a full evaluation of the scheme’s value and necessity before a new version of the policy is launched in 2021.

Shares in Britain’s biggest housebuilders, which sell a significant proportion of homes through the scheme, fell this morning on the report. Persimmon lost about 53p, or 2.5 per cent, to £20.48; Taylor Wimpey fell by 4p, or 2.4 per cent to 159p; Barratt Developments slipped 9¼p, or 1.4 per cent, to 641¾p.

Help to Buy was introduced in April 2013 in response to a fall in house sales following the financial crash of 2008, when a tightening of regulations around mortgage lending made it more difficult to buy a property. It was originally intended to run until 2015 but will now last for a decade.

The scheme offers buyers with a deposit of 5 per cent a five-year interest-free loan of up to 20 per cent of the purchase price, or 40 per cent in London. The loan must be repaid in full on the sale of the property, within 25 years, or in line with the buyer’s main mortgage if it extends beyond 25 years.

The current scheme, which runs until March 2021, is not means-tested and is open to first-time buyers and those who have previously owned a property. Buyers can purchase properties valued at up to £600,000. From March 2021, a new scheme which is due to run for two years, will be restricted to first-time buyers and will introduce lower regional caps on the maximum property value, while remaining at £600,000 in London.

Help to Buy has increased housing supply by an estimated 14 per cent. Since it launched, it has supported more than 220,000 home purchases. The government has issued loans with a total value of more than £12.4 billion.

However, the committee warned that the government has allowed the scheme to become a semi-permanent feature of the housing market without thinking through the changes needed to improve the value to be achieved from the scheme. There is also no plan in place to prevent a fall in supply when the scheme ends in 2023.

Research by the committee also found that should house prices fall or interest rates increase, the government could make a substantial loss on the scheme. It warned that homebuyers who have used Help to Buy might not be aware of the financial risks if interest rates change. It also found that buyers who wanted to sell their property soon after purchase might find that they were in negative equity as new-build properties typically cost 15 per cent to 20 per cent more than equivalent “second-hand properties”.

Meg Hillier, Labour MP and chairwoman of the committee, said that the scheme had “increased the supply of new homes and boosted the bottom line of housebuilders.” She added: “It does not help make homes more affordable nor address other pressing housing problems in the sector such as the planning system or homelessness”.

“The scheme exposes both the government and consumers to significant financial risks were house prices or interest rates to change. Better consumer protection needs to be built into similar schemes in the future.”

Source: Times (pay wall)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.