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The Public Accounts Committee are, unsurprisingly, fairly keen to ensure that the government isn’t wasting the British public’s tax revenue on hairbrained schemes and silly ideas. The jury is out on whether Help to Buy falls into these categories, but that’s perhaps why the committee has been having a look at it.
After all, Help to Buy was only originally intended to be a short-lived scheme. Now it has lasted for almost 10 years and has consumed a budget over eight times its original allocation, has it all been worth it?
Well, the committee findings don’t do much to answer this question. It does note that while there has been a boost in homeownership and the supply of new homes being built, the value of what has been achieved “remains unclear”.
The snappily titled Help to Buy: Equity loan scheme report (download here if the mood takes you), states that financial risks to consumers remain due to insufficient protection, and the MHCLG may not even make a return on its investment.
It also claims that Help to Buy doesn’t solve other pressing issues, such as the provision of genuinely affordable housing and rising levels of homelessness. Perhaps most damning of all, the report finds three-fifths of buyers participating in the scheme did not need its support to buy the property, and that the large sums of money could have been spent to address other housing priorities.
Chair of the Public Accounts Committee Meg Hillier MP fairly bluntly said in her comments: “Help to Buy, as the Department acknowledged, only benefits those in a position to buy their own house in the first place. It does not help make homes more affordable nor address other pressing housing problems in the sector such as the planning system or homelessness.”
All in all, not comfortable reading for the government’s flagship scheme. Click here for more analysis and comment from the committee.