Help to Buy has been a total flop in tackling housing crisis, say Camden and Haringey politicians
07:00 08 August 2014
The government’s “silver bullet cure” for the housing crisis has been derided as “woefully ill-equipped” after it was revealed only a handful of people in Camden, Haringey and Westminster had taken it up.
Help to Buy was launched with much fanfare last year, with Prime Minister David Cameron boasting that the scheme would help people “realise the dream of home ownership”.
However, just one person in Camden had used the mortgage guarantee scheme, with two using it in Westminster. No one used any of the help available to buy a new-build property in either borough.
In Haringey, more people have taken up the scheme in line with other outer London boroughs. In total, 21 people used Help to Buy for a new-build home, and eight used the mortgage guarantee scheme for old properties. How many of these were bought in the west of the borough is unknown.
Help to Buy allows people to get a mortgage with as little as a five per cent deposit, with the government lending the remaining 15 per cent on properties up to £600,000.
However, the cost of the average home in these boroughs is far higher, according to property website RightMove.
Camden Council leader, Labour’s Sarah Hayward, revealed in a column for the Guardian this week that the problem is “now so acute that... even senior people in multinationals raise with me on a regular basis the issue of housing for their staff”.
Tulip Siddiq, Labour prospective parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn, said the Right to Buy figures are proof the government’s flagship scheme is “woefully ill-equipped to tackle the housing crisis in Camden”.
The problem, Ms Siddiq and her Labour colleagues argue, is a basic lack of affordable housing. “Affordable” rents in Camden, Cllr Hayward told the Guardian, require an income of £50,000 – far higher than the borough’s average earnings of £33,000.
Ms Siddiq added: “We need to refocus our efforts on the building of thousands of new, genuinely affordable properties to ensure that everyone has a chance to realise their dream of home ownership.”
In Haringey – where the average home price in June was £656,512 – Catherine West, Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Hornsey and Wood Green, said Help to Buy was not only “misguided” but had actually made the market more difficult by creating “an unsustainable house price bubble”.
The former Islington Council leader said: “Since 2010, the number of new homes has plummeted and the Tory mayor has severely weakened guidelines to build affordable housing in London. The majority of new-builds are sold abroad to overseas investors. This does not help first-time buyers or anyone else looking for a home.”
However, housing minister Brandon Lewis, MP for Great Yarmouth, defended Help to Buy, pointing out it was helping boost house-building nationally, as well as homeowners locally.