THE BLOG

Government's Housing Reforms Will Lock Out the Majority of First-Time Buyers

20/04/2016 11:10

The past fortnight has been a bad one for those dreaming of buying their first home. First there was news that average house price growth has risen to hit a rate of 10.1%, and then Shelter's new figures showed that you will need to earn £64k and have a deposit of £46k to get on the housing ladder by 2020.

At the same time the House of Lords has been debating the controversial Housing and Planning Bill, which is set to make the housing crisis even worse. For all the Tory talk of helping first time buyers, the Bill will help only a tiny minority.

The main way of delivering assistance is through Starter Homes, and at a 20% discount on market price, the lucky few who get their hands on one of these will be counting their blessings. But fewer than 5% of renters hopeful of buying a home one day will benefit from one of these Starter Homes, according to research by Generation Rent. That will leave a huge number very disappointed.

Furthermore there is no guarantee these homes will go to those who actually need them most to get on the housing ladder. Even cash buyers will be entitled to purchase one, if they meet the very broad criteria of being a first time buyer between the ages of 23 and 40. Wealthy parents will spot the investment opportunity.

Far more needs to be done to help those without the bank of Mum and Dad to rely on. Nothing shows up the inequality in our country between the haves and the have nots like housing and it is simply not good enough to help a small number at the expense of many others.

Liberal Democrats have been fighting in the Lords to make Starter Homes fairer, so they are not exploited by those with wealthy parents. It is madness for the Government to assume everyone under 40 is disadvantaged - the fact that the average age of buying a home is 31 shows this is not the case. We must target the benefits towards those who could really do with help.

At the same time we need to tackle rising rents, which prevent first time buyers saving for a deposit. This means a genuine effort to build more homes. It also means protecting social housing rather than selling it off as the Government is doing, which forces more people into the private rented sector and inflates rental costs for everyone.

The Bill was a chance for the Government to make a serious attempt at tackling the housing crisis. But instead it is a patchwork of ill-conceived ideas that will have a devastating effect on the most vulnerable and will fail to make housing more affordable for the vast majority of people.

Raising the hopes of first time buyers, whilst failing to deliver radical change, is a mistake the Tories will live to regret.

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