I will be the first to hold my hands up and say that when I heard about the Government’s Help to Buy scheme, I was delighted. There I was three years out of university and back living at the hotel of mum and dad, battling with my younger brothers over the TV remote, when I caught wind of this wonderful first-time-buyer solution that would help me afford to make my first steps on the property ladder.
As you can imagine, with a five figure student loan debt over my head, the chances of finding a £30k deposit for a house this side of retirement is slim. The Help to Buy scheme seemed the perfect solution – a good-sized home in a new development, a shot at independence and moving forward with my adult life, and a 5% deposit to boot. It’s a no brainer to anyone really.. or so I thought.
While the second phase of the scheme has so far supported over 7,000 home loans since its launch in October last year – 80% of which were first-time buyers according to the Treasury – there is the growing concern following the release of new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) who revealed that first-time buyers are now facing having to pay 10% more than they did a year ago, with the average price for a starter home in the UK now costing £193,000. Figures from the Nationwide Building Society also backed this up by showing that the UK house price growth moved into double digits last month – prices in London now being 20% above the pre-housing crisis peak.
The Help to Buy II has also been criticised by some for artificially raising house prices in some of the country’s poorest housing markets. With the current ceiling figure allowing Help to Buyers being able to borrow money for a house up to the value of £600,000, surely this places the housing market even more at risk of overheating, with still not enough houses being built to keep up with the growth in population. This coupled with the news of the Government’s £1bn mortgage debt guaranteed by taxpayers to support the scheme only further questions as to where this scheme is really heading. And, if that wasn’t enough, there’s talk of the Bank of England curbing mortgage spending to make it even harder for buyers to secure loans.
The scheme appears to be a terrific quick fix to help the current housing situation, and as a means of getting younger generations on to the property ladder it certainly achieves its goal. But is all of this just the beginning of a snowball effect which will lead to overstretched borrowing in the future and cause the housing market to once again become out of control?
Is it a good move in theory? Absolutely. Is it a viable option that is risk-free down the line? No.