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Monday, Jun 21, 2021

Property in Wales: Buying a home 'unachievable' for many

Property in Wales: Buying a home 'unachievable' for many

For many working parents in Wales, buying their own home is an "unachievable dream," according to three charities.

Nearly half the homeowners helped by the Help to Buy scheme in 2020-21 earned at least £40,000.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation said evidence suggested it was "not helping people on lower incomes".

The Welsh government said a new phase of the scheme will help those "who most need support".

Alys Patosit, 41, and her husband Pin, 48, live in Monmouthshire with their two children.

Mrs Patosit works part-time as an administrative assistant and as a carer for the elderly, as well as running her own online business, but said her family might never be able to afford their own home, no matter how hard they work.

"Since returning to work after having my children, I have found myself working three jobs and still having to claim Universal Credit to make ends meet, leaving us with nothing to save for a deposit," she said.

"We dream of being able to afford a modest home in the area I grew up in, but we feel trapped in a cycle and having housing security feels impossible, sometimes it feels completely hopeless."

What is Help to Buy and who does it help?


Help to Buy is a scheme which allows those eligible to buy a new-build property up to the value of £250,000 with help from the Welsh government by way of a shared equity loan.

Since January 2014, 11,959 properties have been purchased using a Help to Buy loan in Wales.

A recent official report on the scheme found that, over the last three years, the proportion of completed purchases by those on higher incomes had increased.

"During 2020-21, 49% of all homes purchased under the scheme were by those with an average household income of £40,000 to £60,000," said the report.

"In contrast, homes purchased by those with a household income of less than £20,000 have been decreasing annually and in 2020-21 accounted for only 2% of all completed purchases using the scheme."

What is 'affordable' housing?


Carmen Jackson, co-ordinator of Home-Start's Helping Working Families project across Monmouthshire, Blaenau Gwent and Caerphilly, said: "Housing is an issue that comes up again and again with many of our families.

"Feelings are running high about the current housing situation. Many families feel that home ownership for their family is a completely unachievable dream.

"We have found in some regions, social housing stock is low, which creates demand for rentals, forcing up the prices of rentals which makes investors buying homes as buy-to-lets attractive and making home ownership unrealistic for all but the wealthiest."

She added that affordable housing seemed to be only affordable where both parents were working full-time on a good wage or have significant help from family.

"We are noticing the knock-on effects for families, with families either overstretching themselves to try to create better lives for their families or feeling hopeless because the dream is completely out of reach," she said.


'The stress was wearing us down'


Eve (who did not want her surname published), her husband and three children bought a home through the Help to Buy scheme, but were disappointed.

"The government's idea of affordable and most working families' incomes don't match up," said Eve.

"We ended up buying a house that's really too small for our family and needs loads of work doing, that we can't afford to do, but we were desperate.

"Local rents are just too high, the stress was wearing us down."

Dr Steffan Evans, policy and research officer at the Bevan Foundation, said: "There have long been questions about whether Help to Buy is a scheme that helps boost the availability of genuinely affordable housing.

"The latest evidence adds further weight to these concerns. Investing the funds in other programmes such as the Social Housing Grant, which funds the construction of new social housing, could prove to be far more effective use of Welsh government funds."

'It's not right'
Rachel Casey of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation says support is not being given to the people who need it most

Rachel Casey, policy and partnerships officer at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: "Even before coronavirus, around 700,000 people in Wales were trapped in poverty. Together with low wages and inadequate benefit levels, high private rents lock people in Wales in poverty.

"So it's not right that the majority of support in the housing market is currently being directed towards people who are not in poverty and who may already own their own homes.

"This evidence suggests that the Help to Buy scheme in Wales is not helping people on lower incomes to access home ownership, but instead supporting people on higher incomes.

"Across the UK, the stamp duty holiday policy is benefiting existing homeowners but making it much harder for renters to get on the property ladder."

A Welsh government spokesperson said: "We understand the difficulties first-time buyers face and the uncertainties in the jobs market as a result of the pandemic.

"Our Help to Buy Wales scheme plays an important role in helping people get onto the property ladder with three-quarters of the 12,000 homes already delivered through the programme going to first-time buyers.

"Phase 3 of Help to Buy Wales was launched last month and has been designed to ensure the scheme further benefits those who most need support in securing home ownership."

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