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Has Help To Buy helped the market? The jury's out says agency analyst

An estate agency analyst has queried whether the £2 billion spent on the equity loan Help To Buy scheme in England could have been better spent on other measures to stimulate the market and house building.

"The jury's out" says Lee Layton, research analyst at Carter Jonas. 

He has compared English Help To Buy with the similar schemes focussed on lower value purchases in Wales and Scotland, plus housing stimulus packages in the Republic of Ireland and elsewhere in western Europe.

"If you omit the emotive fact that individual buyers have been helped - which is clearly good - it's not clear whether the scheme's wider aim of stimulating building beyond the level that the market would have done anyway, has been achieved" Layton explains in Estates Gazette property magazine.

The Department of Communities and Local Government says HTB's equity loan and mortgage guarantee elements had created over 50,000 new owners. About 80 per cent were first time buyers and 94 per cent were outside London. 

But Layton says that while private new home starts in England increased 30 per cent in HTB's first year, comparable countries with less take-up for similar schemes - and some countries with no HTB equivalents at all - enjoyed similar upturns.

In Layton's analysis Milton Keynes, for example, had a substantial 1,430 buyers take advantage of the HTB equity loan in its first two years, yet the town suffered a 16.4 per cent fall in new build starts over the same period.

In his analysis for Estates Gazette, Layton has also contrasted the council areas with the highest take-up in HTB's first two years - Wiltshire, Leeds and Central Bedfordshire, with between 735 and 816 buyers each - with London's Camden, City, Haringey, Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea boroughs where there were no HTB buyers at all during the same period.

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