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First-time Buyer

Government considering Help to Buy relaunch ‒ reports

Nick Cheek
Written By:
Nick Cheek

The government is understood to be drawing up plans for a revival of the Help to Buy scheme.

Reports in national newspapers over the weekend suggested that the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak wants to bring forward some sort of scheme to offer support to renters who want to get onto the housing ladder.

According to the reports, such a scheme was mooted before the Spring Budget but was dropped over fears it would be inflationary. However, it appears to be back on the table for the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement.

The Help to Buy Equity scheme offered first-time buyers the chance to purchase a new-build property with a minimum 5% deposit. They could also use an equity loan of up to 20% of the purchase price – or 40% in London – where the loan is interest-free for the first five years.

Plan at an ‘early stage’

Sources close to the Government have said that the idea remains at an early stage, and could see support offered to buyers looking to purchase not only new-build properties but existing ones too.

There has also been speculation around extending the mortgage guarantee scheme, which pushes lenders to offer 95 per cent loan-to-value mortgages, but which is due to conclude this year.

Back in January, the government said it was not looking to extend or replace the Help to Buy scheme, with the scheme criticised for inflating the values of new-build properties.

Help to Buy closed to new applicants in October last year, while completions have to go through by 31 May to qualify for the scheme.

Mortgage brokers have previously warned that the deadlines, and the way the scheme has been wrapped up, are putting clients ‘through the wringer’.

Developers were the only winners

However, for those in the industry, there’s a split on whether the potential return of Help To Buy would be a good idea.

Graham Cox, founder of SelfEmployedMortgageHub.com, said that relaunching Help to Buy was a “terrible idea”, with the mere suggestion of it showing “which way the wind is blowing for house builders”.

He added: “This policy should really be called Help to Sell, because that’s exactly what it is. If Sunak really wants to help first-time buyers get on the property ladder, he should stop intervening and simply let house prices fall so they become truly affordable again. Or does he not believe in free markets?”

Meanwhile, Gareth Davies, director at South Coast Mortgage Services, said the scheme had encouraged people to buy properties that they could not really afford.

He continued: “People maxed themselves out on a property they shouldn’t have bought, with super low rates and, as a result, we are seeing people struggle to restructure things once the equity loan becomes payable. The only real winners from this scheme were the developers.”

However, Mobeen Akram, national new homes account director at Mortgage Advice Bureau was more upbeat about the possible move.

He said: “With news surfacing about a potential move back to the Help to Buy scheme ahead of the next general election, we’ll definitely be keeping our eyes open for new developments. We’ve long said that first-time buyer schemes help people get on the property ladder, and we are firm advocates for government incentives.

“While we are pleased to hear that discussions about Help to Buy have opened once again, it’s important we remain open minded and realistic about viability and timescales.”