Chancellor George Osborne’s early Christmas present to those desperately saving to buy their first home is that he has promised billions of taxpayers’ money to builders to provide 400,000 subsidised homes for first time buyers.
It’s such good news as the season of giving begins. No better time to announce it. He must have been inspired by the biblical story of how Jesus was born in a stable because his parents were homeless? Of course he was. Doesn’t he go to church regularly? He must know the story well.
About half of these new homes will be available for those under 40 years at a 20 per cent discount. The taxpayer subsidy to build these is a dizzy £2.3billion. Fantastic news. Bring out the bubbly as it means potential house owners won’t have to find so much money themselves.
I’m trying not to be cynical but for the past decade my generation of so-called baby boomers has had to listen to endless criticism about how well off we are having paid off our mortgages. The impression given is that we have deprived this young generation of the means to buy their own starter homes because house prices have risen so much. As if we are to blame for that. Those who can afford to raise the deposit these days for a home enjoy miniscule mortgage interest rates, the kind of figures my generation could only dream about. When mortgage rates rose to nearly 17 per cent in the late 70s those of us on average incomes couldn’t afford as much as a bottle of wine.
Eating out wasn’t an option and as for holidays. What holidays? There was no taxpayer subsidy for us. Finding that deposit for a first home was up to us.
George’s largesse – to be paid for out of general income tax - will extend to a further 8,000 subsidised homes for housing associations to help cope with the ageing population.
Yes, that’s some of my generation currently being berated because we’re living too long and expecting too much care from the National Health Service.
The rest, another 135,000, will come under the shared ownership scheme. The Chancellor says he wants to help all those who “aspire in life”. Well, we baby boomers had lots of aspirations but we worked in an era of low incomes and high prices. Today I can buy vegetables at a fraction of the cost I paid for them 40 years ago. I also remember a plain black school blazer for my son costing £100.
Today the same garment would cost half that. We worked long hours in those days. Today young people want 9-5 jobs and no weekend work.
Buyers of these subsidised new homes will keep the full benefit of the 20 per cent discount if they own the property for five years.
That doesn’t sound much like a hardship to me though I accept that some may be forced to move because of work commitments.
It’s all good news for the young and I hope they appreciate it. I have some reservations though, the primary one being the government acting as property developer at the mercy of builders many of whom have made fortunes in the past building unexciting housing, far too small for families and with no garden space to speak of.
I hope the government sets down some rules for them now and for those they should look to the Netherlands where family homes have to be suitably sized for families and garden space for each is a must.
They need to make sure too that planning departments are not overawed by builders. After all its taxpayers’ money being spent here.