Tuesday, 07 July 2015

Firstbuy scheme a 'sticking plaster on a broken leg'

The government’s first time buyer’s package will do little to help those in housing need, warned Shelter.

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Responding to chancellor George Osborne’s budget yesterday, Campbell Robb, chief executive of the housing charity, said the policy was the ‘equivalent of a sticking plaster on a broken leg’.

‘Today’s announcement will help less than 1 per cent of those struggling to get on the housing ladder, leaving them more likely to win a prize on the lottery than be helped through this small-scale scheme,’ he said.

‘It’s a shame the chancellor wasn’t such a champion of housing investment six months ago when he slashed the budget by over 60 per cent.’

The Chartered Institute of Housing warned the £250 million firstbuy scheme should not just be a short term measure.

Chief executive Sarah Webb said: ‘The £250 million fund is a useful short term boost, but it is important that we also address the fundamental question of how to sustain housing supply in the long term. Measures to reform the planning system will have a more significant role in this.’

The National Housing Federation said the scheme would help first time buyers.

Chief executive David Orr said: ‘This scheme will offer first-time buyers on moderate incomes a much needed helping hand towards buying an affordable home and is a very welcome move.’

The NHF was also keen to look at how housing associations could make the best use of the £3 billion funding now allotted to the green investment bank, he added.

The Town and Country Planning Association was concerned about the government’s plans for land auctions, allowing councils to raise money from the increase in value of land with planning permission.

Kate Henderson, TCPA chief executive, said: ‘The pilot of land auctions raises some serious questions about the probity of planning decisions and risks undermining the government’s ambition to rebuild trust in the planning system.

‘We wait to see the details of these pilots but transparency of decision-making and ensuring development is in accordance with the principles of sustainable development will be pivotal.’

The National Landlords Association said changes to the stamp duty land tax would encourage private landlords to invest more in residential property. Mr Osborne pledged to change the rules for bulk purchases of residential properties so that a buyer could choose to pay stamp duty on the mean value of the homes purchased rather paying it on each home individually.

David Salusbury, chair of the NLA, said: ‘The stamp duty concessions on bulk purchases will encourage landlords to invest more in residential property, thus providing much needed housing in the private rented sector.’

The government will also extend the support for mortgage interest scheme, which helps struggling homeowners pay their mortgage interest payments, for another year. Unemployed home owners can claim up to 100 per cent of their interest payments after 13 weeks of unemployment and for mortgages worth up to £200,000. The scheme was due to end in January 2012.

Other comments on the yesterday’s Budget:

Richard Diment, director general of the Federation of Master Builders, said: ‘The chancellor missed an opportunity today to support the green deal and kick start consumer demand to make our homes greener. Without creating demand in the market for energy efficient improvement it is difficult to see how the green deal will succeed when it starts in the autumn of 2012.’

Stewart Baseley, Home Builders Federation executive chairman, said: ‘The severity of the housing crisis dictates that work doesn’t stop here. It is crucial that all [yesterday’s] announcements are built on, regulation is reduced, land supply increased and the planning system simplified.’

Paul King, chief executive of the UK Green Building Council, said: ‘In the space of two weeks, this government has gone from a firm commitment on zero carbon homes, to a watered down policy. A zero carbon home will no longer do what it says on the tin.’

Simon Rubinsohn, RICS chief economist, said: ‘RICS is concerned that the government has not thought through the effectiveness of land auctions and the level of impact they will actually have on the amount of development land being made available. It seems unlikely that landowners will be willing to sell if they think they can benefit from gaining planning permission, which could deliver far greater profits.’

Richard Summers, president of the Royal Town Planning Institute, said: ‘If sweeping changes announced to the planning system result in the default position being “yes” to development then there is real danger that within a decade we will end up with an England of tin sheds, Legoland housing and US style shopping malls.’

Ian Fletcher, director of policy at the British Property Federation, said: ‘This is impressive backing for a long-standing BPF campaign to have stamp duty on residential portfolio trades reformed. It will provide an important boost for the private rented sector and we hope will tip the balance in encouraging institutional funds into building homes.’

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