Policy

Helping people to buy a home

Issue

Surveys and research consistently show that most people want to own their own home. But with house prices rising rapidly in the 10 years from 1997, many potential home buyers have not been able to afford it.

Many people have also found it even harder recently to pay the high deposits needed for a mortgage.

Actions

Help to Buy

We’re supporting people’s aspirations to own their own home. The government’s 2-part Help to Buy scheme enables people to buy a home priced up to £600,000 with a deposit of as little as 5%.

There are 2 types of Help to Buy scheme:

  • Help to Buy: equity loan - the government lends up to 20% of the value of a new build home
  • Help to Buy: mortgage guarantee - will run until 2016 and enables lenders to offer homebuyers 80% to 95% mortgages

Right to Buy

We’re encouraging more tenants to exercise their Right to Buy their council house by increasing the maximum discount that buyers can get off the market value of their home to £75,000 outside London, and £100,000 in London.

Buying a new-build home

We’re working with the Home Builders Federation and the Council of Mortgage Lenders to help people buy a newly built home through the NewBuy scheme.

Preventing repossessions

We provide a range of measures to help homeowners in financial difficulty.

Background

Giving people the Right to Buy

Councils have always been able to sell houses to their tenants, but the Housing Act 1980 extended the practice to all social tenants with secure tenancies, giving them the legal right to buy their home, rather than it being at the landlord’s discretion.

The Housing Act 1980 also introduced a discount for buyers so that they could buy their council or housing association home at a lower price than the market price.

The last 30 years have seen significant changes to social tenants’ right to buy their properties, including big reductions to the discounts available. Currently, fewer than 3,000 homes are sold each year in England, compared with more than 60,000 in the financial year 2002 to 2003.

Residential leasehold

Leasehold is a long-established way of owning property in England and Wales based on an agreement between the freeholder and leaseholder (sometimes also referred to as landlord and tenant). There are (by industry estimates) around 1 million houses and 2 million flats held on long leases in England – ‘long’ meaning more than 21 years’ duration when granted. Around 40% of recent new-build properties in England are leasehold.

The law about leasehold tenure is complex. The aim of the law about leasehold tenure is to protect both leaseholders and freeholders.

Who we’ve consulted

The ‘Reinvigorating Right to Buy’ consultation ran from 22 December 2011 to 2 February 2012. We published our response to the consultation on 12 March 2012.

The consultation resulted in the discount for Right to Buy being increased to a maximum of £75,000 when the tenant has lived in an eligible property for 5 or more years. Money from additional sales will be used to fund the building of new affordable homes. Nearly all councils have now signed an agreement with the government that each additional home sold nationally under Right to Buy will be replaced by a new affordable home to rent.

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