The government has published plans for a scheme to help first-time buyers get onto the property ladder. UNISON’s analysis shows that the plans are flawed – and the union is encouraging members to respond to the government’s consultation on the scheme.
According to the government, First Homes will make it easier to get onto the property ladder by offering potential first-time buyers in England the opportunity to buy a new-build home with one-third off the market price.
The discount will apply to a proportion of new homes and will mainly be funded from developer contributions made as part of the planning system (section 106).
The scheme will be aimed at local people who want to stay in the areas where they live and work. Veterans of the armed forces and key workers such as nurses, teachers and prison officers, will be prioritised.
The consultation states that the scheme, to be administered by local authorities, will give more people the opportunity to buy a discounted home, saving up to £100,000.
However, the average cost of a new-build home is £314,000. UNISON analysis shows that, even with a 30% discount applied – a reduction of £94,000 on that figure – most potential first-time buyers on low to middle incomes would still struggle to be able to buy a home under the scheme.
UNISON believes that the government’s plans to fund the scheme using developer contributions is flawed. Section 106 is the primary way of funding social and affordable rented housing, which is delivered by developers as part of their planning permission.
According to UNISON, this move divert funds away from the provision of social and affordable rented homes. Offering discounts on new properties still does not deliver the social rented homes that the UK needs.
UNISON assistant policy officer Sylvia Jones said: “Housing policy should address the needs of the whole population, including those who want to own their own home.
“However, with an increasing number of public service workers priced out of the housing market, a declining social rented housing sector and 1.15m people on waiting lists, the government needs to rethink the First Homes policy, and introduce holistic measures.
“These should include significantly increasing the supply of social rented and genuinely affordable housing for people who are unable to buy or privately rent, as recommended in UNISON’s housing manifesto.”
The consultation closes at 11.45pm on 3 April. The union has produced a briefing for anyone responding to the proposal.
UNISON itself will submit a national response, highlighting concerns about design, delivery, eligibility and affordability.
- download and share the UNISON briefing;
- find out more about the government consultation, including how to respond and download the consultation document;
- use UNISON’s housing affordability tool to find out how the housing crisis will affect you and your family. Make sure you share your result on social media and email your MP on the subject;
- tweet to your MP and ask them to support the policies in our housing manifesto and the manifesto summary – using the hashtag #UNISONHousingManifesto;
- find out more about UNISON’s housing campaign.