The Help to Buy scheme continues to grab the headlines, mainly for the right reasons. A recent study from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government showed almost half a million completions have taken place since 2013, with 430,000 of these completions made by first-time buyers.
This data outlined that:
- A total of 494,108 completions have taken place using one or more of the government’s Help to Buy schemes, over 93% of which took place outside of London
- The average house price purchased through the schemes is £202,815
- First-time buyers have now opened 1.4 million Help to Buy: ISAs, offering government bonuses of up to £3,000 on top of their savings
These figures highlight how invaluable the Help to Buy scheme has become, and how it will continue to support home buyers into the next decade. It has also helped prop up the new build sector and provided housebuilders with a solid target plan for the delivery of new homes, although many short, medium and long-term challenges are evident.
Demand will continue for new build homes even though some question marks remain surrounding price, value, borrowing requirements and affordability – especially in areas where house prices are relatively stable but still high. Build quality and energy efficiency standards attached to new build properties continue to be a primary focus for those operating within this sector. And major housebuilders/developers are fully aware of how important it is to reach a healthy and cost-effective equilibrium.
The recent Spring Statement was obviously dominated by Brexit related undertones. Although it was a positive step to see the launch of a new £3bn Affordable Homes Guarantee scheme aimed at delivering around 30,000 affordable homes. The Government will also unlock £717m from the Housing Infrastructure Fund to deliver up to 37,000 new homes on sites in West London, Cheshire, Didcot, and Cambridge. Additionally, the Chancellor announced that new homes will be banned from having fossil fuel heating systems from 2025, “delivering lower carbon, and lower fuel bills too” to further emphasise that energy efficiency within new build property remains high on the government agenda.
There remains an important balance to be found between bolstering productivity/volume and energy efficiency, with the affordable new build housing supply gap proving to be an increasingly tough one to bridge. Help to Buy has certainly created a well-trodden path for growing numbers of purchasers, housebuilders, lenders and intermediaries but we, as an industry – backed by the government – need to continue pushing for innovative and responsible solutions to further support a scheme which will not be around forever.
Matt Aston is new build manager at Barclays Mortgages