Government's Help to Buy scheme 'boosting North East housing market'

Controversial government mortgage scheme Help to Buy is helping the North East, say experts

Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire A row of terraced houses
A row of terraced houses

More than 1,500 households in the North East have been helped to buy a new home thanks to a Government loan or mortgage guarantee, Ministers have revealed.

And a housing expert said the Help to Buy scheme had revitalised the North East housing market, as official figures showed property prices across the region rose by 2.9% over the past year.

Newcastle and Gateshead saw some of the biggest rises in the country, with prices up by 6.5% and 6.4% respectively.

Labour also welcomed the figures - but called for more measures to increase the supply of new housing.

The Help to Buy scheme has been controversial because some critics claim it is fuelling a housing “bubble” in London and the South East, so that house prices soar but will eventually crash.

But experts say there is little danger of this happening in other parts of the country.

Under measures introduced by George Osborne, the Chancellor, the Government lends buyers up to 20% of the cost of a new-build home, so that they need only a 5% cash deposit and a 75% mortgage to make up the rest.

New figures show that 1,250 households benefitted from this scheme in the North East, including 101 in Northumberland, 127 in Sunderland, 118 in Newcastle and 117 in Gateshead.

The Government also offers mortgage guarantees on any home, whether new build or not, effectively allowing people to borrow more. This option has been taken up by 308 households in the region.

Separate figures from the Land Registry show that the average price of a property sold last month in the North East was £99,001, up by 2.9% over a year. This is in contrast to London, where prices rose 17%.

Chartered surveyor Paul McSkimmings, principal at Newcastle-based Edward Watson Associates, said: “The market has picked up dramatically. It was very poor in 2012 and in 2013 there was a major improvement.

“The Help to Buy scheme has made a difference. A young couple in their early 20s, the typical first time buyer, can find it very hard to save up for a deposit.

“The scheme bridges the gap and allows them on to the property ladder. It’s first time buyers that drive the market.

“Help to Buy may be contributing to problems in London but in the North East it has been of great benefit to the market.”

Emma Reynolds MP, Labour’s Shadow Housing Minister, said: “Any help for first-time buyers struggling to get on the property ladder is welcome.

“But rising demand for housing must be matched with rising supply if this scheme is to bring buying a home within the reach of low-and-middle-income earners.”

But the Conservatives said Help to Buy was actually leading to more homes being built. Hexham Conservative MP Guy Opperman said: “Help to Buy is genuinely making a difference in Northumberland.

“I went to Humbley Wood, a new-build development in Prudhoe, and nine out of then of the properties being purchased were by people using Help to Buy.

“When I spoke to several of the couples who had just moved in, they all made it very clear that without Help to Buy they could not have purchased their first home.”

Speculation has also been mounting that the Bank of England could restrict the Help to Buy scheme in an attempt to calm London’s housing market down.

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