Budget 2013: Osborne tries again on housing

Heather Butler

Funding of £3.5bn over three years to help get the housing market back on track has been roundly welcomed by the region's housebuilding sector.

The launch of Help to Buy was one of the main announcements in George Osborne's Budget, providing support for homebuyers struggling to raise the deposits needed to secure a mortgage.

In his statement to the Commons this lunchtime the Chancellor said: "We're going to help families who want a mortgage for any home they're buying, old or new, but who cannot begin to afford the kind of deposits being demanded today."

Help to Buy has two strands designed to free up lending for buyers, equity loans and mortgage guarantees.

Equity loans will be available of up to 20 per cent for deposits on new build homes, priced up to £600,000, with buyers asked to put down at least five per cent. themselves. The loan would be interest free for up to five years and would only be paid back on the sale of the property.

The move extends the current scheme – FirstBuy – which only applied to first time buyers and has an income cap of £60,000. This new approach is intended to to provide a direct boost to housebuilders by supporting the purchase of new build properties, but also to reinvigorate the wider market and help people moving up the property ladder as well as those just starting out.

The second element is a mortgage guarantee scheme to increase availability of mortgages for buyers of both new build and older properties. A temporary scheme, set to run from January 2014 to 2017, it is designed to encourage lenders with a reassurance that the government would step in on any default.

Scott Neal, marketing manager at regeneration developer LPC Living, which is building new homes at developments in Salford and on Merseyside, said: "Today's announcement to open up the Help to Buy shared equity scheme to all buyers, not just first-timers and scrapping the £60,000 income limit, is welcome news indeed.

"Increasingly we find many would-be homeowners are falling into a pattern of long-term renting with many put off by the large deposits typically required by lenders. To be able to buy a brand new, energy efficient home with just 5% will undoubtedly encourage people to rethink their ability to afford a home of their own, as well as safeguarding construction jobs across the UK."

Tony Medcalf, tax partner at Preston-based Moore and Smalley Chartered Accountants and Business Advisors, said: "The Chancellor finally looks to have offered something of substance for the construction industry with the new Help to Buy scheme. This is a strong move to stimulate housebuilding and will be very good news for developers if it delivers what it has the potential to. However, it's too early to tell whether this will be the saviour of the construction industry in the North West."

Mike Brogan, chief executive of Procure Plus, the North West consortium of registered housing providers, welcomed the announcement but urged the industry to work out its own solutions. He said: "The news that the government is to significantly increase spending on house building to boost the delivery of affordable housing is excellent for the sector and something that has needed addressing for some time.

"However, as an industry it's time we start to accept more responsibility and understand that we can't keep relying on what effectively are government handouts every year to tackle the housing crisis. It is essential that organisations explore alternative approaches and consider new ways of working, in order to ensure affordable housing schemes are being delivered, and as most effectively as possible at the best possible price."

Tony Reddin, director at Grant Thornton in Liverpool, said: "The 20 per cent government assistance for people buying new-build homes is not only likely to be a crowd pleaser, but it should bring a tangible lift to the region's construction and property trade. There's no doubt that the demand for new homes is there, so this measure aligned with the mortgage guarantee scheme can only be a good thing. But as with all these things the detail is what matters – it will be interesting to see whether the measures are simple enough to translate into use."

And John Cridland, director-general of the CBI, added: "We're particularly pleased our call for a focus on the short-term boost of housing has been heeded, alongside an increase in longer-term big ticket infrastructure spending. This was recognition it was a mistake to cut capital spending so sharply and that other growth-boosting measures were taking too long. But by shifting £6bn to housing and infrastructure, the Government has sowed the seeds for growth and jobs."

Warrington-based Arley Homes has developments across Lancashire, Greater Manchester and Cheshire. John Cosgrave, managing director, welcomed the stimulus for the wider market provided by Help to Buy.

He said: "I'm happy the government is offering support for all buyers of homes across the open market and not purely focusing on the first time buyer market.

"Couple this with increased opportunity to acquire shared equity, it will hopefully open up the housing market and ensure people are more confident to move into new homes to suit their needs which will, in turn, make more homes available to the first time buyers."

Jeremy Hartley, managing director at the Eric Wright Group, said: "In terms of our construction and property development activities, we are also pleased to see initiatives such as the Help to Buy Scheme, assisting all buyers, not just those taking their first step on the property ladder, through reducing levels of required deposits.

"The new mortgage guarantee scheme supporting £130bn of funding should also increase availability of home loans and further contribute to recovery in this sector."

Simon Bedford, partner and head of Deloitte Real Estate in the north said: "The annouced 'Help to Buy' scheme should assist the struggling housing market. The first part – a new equity loan – is available to anyone wishing to buy a newly built property. This will give developers confidence that their properties are attainable, boosting speculative developments. The second part of the scheme – a mortgage guarantee plan – will greatly aid those than can afford repayments but struggle to save a lump sum to put a deposit on a property. This initiative should make the residential property market more fluid again as more people will be in a viable position to buy."

Steven Verity, director of CBRE North West Residential, said:
"We are pleased to hear that the Government has allocated £3.5bn to its Help to Buy regime. It is vital for the whole of the property market that families and first time buyers can get on the property ladder, and the primary issue they face is lack of mortgage availability. This move will also provide a much-needed boost for the house building industry.

"Every house built generates 1.5 jobs directly and a further four jobs in other stages of the supply chain, so any measures that stimulate house building will act as a catalyst for the wider economy. This move is particularly good news for first time buyers in the London market."

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