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Latest plans to tackle housing bring ‘distinct feeling of deja vu’

A string of measures have been unveiled in recent years to help fix the housing market.

Moves to rewrite planning rules are the latest in a string of announcements aimed at turning the dream of home ownership into a reality for more people – leaving some with a distinct feeling that we have been here before.

– What is the aim behind the latest plans?

The changes aim to remove barriers to housebuilding, making it harder for developers who sit on land while its value increases to get planning permission from councils. The move is part of wider efforts to boost the supply of new homes.

– What previous announcements have been made about helping people onto the property ladder?

Several schemes have run under the banner of Help to Buy in recent years, which has had a particular focus on first-time buyers.

A major part of Help to Buy was the UK-wide mortgage guarantee scheme, which opened in October 2013, to help people with deposits as low as 5% to purchase a property.

The mortgage guarantee scheme closed at the end of 2016, with around 100,000 mortgages having been completed with the support of the scheme.

In February 2017, the Government unveiled wide-ranging measures to fix the “broken” housing market, including encouraging innovation from smaller builders and help for renters.

In November 2017, stamp duty relief was introduced for first-time buyers.

– What criticisms have there been?

It has been argued some government schemes aimed at helping people onto the property ladder have helped to fuel house price growth – saddling buyers with bigger mortgage debts which could take longer to pay off.

House prices have shown strong growth in many areas in recent years, falling further out of step with wages.

According to property analysts Hometrack, average house prices have surged by 86% in London since 2009 – and Hometrack expects to see average house prices rise by 20% to 30% in cities such as Edinburgh, Birmingham and Manchester over the next three to four years.

The pace of house price growth has been so strong that according to research from Halifax last year houses in around a third of UK local authority districts had “earned” more than their owners did over the previous two years.

– What signs are there that the situation is improving?

Across 2017, 365,000 first-time buyers were recorded – the highest since 2006 (Jonathan Brady/PA)

There has been evidence of both more people getting on the housing ladder and stronger house building activity.

According to trade association UK Finance, the number of people taking their first step on the property ladder reached its highest levels in a decade last year.

Across 2017, 365,000 first-time buyers were recorded – the highest since 2006.

Meanwhile, a total of 160,606 new homes were registered during 2017, up 6% on the previous year and the highest since pre-economic downturn levels, according to the National House Building Council (NHBC), whose figures represent homes set to be built.

It was the highest annual figure for the NHBC since 198,929 homes were registered in 2007.

– How could the latest plans help to fix the “broken” housing market?

With studies consistently pointing to a lack of homes on the market and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) recently reporting the supply of properties is close to all-time lows, boosting the numbers of available homes could help to ease affordability by bringing supply more into balance with demand.

But Paula Paula Higgins, chief executive, of the HomeOwners Alliance, said the latest announcement “left me with a distinct feeling of deja vu”.

She said: “Now the time for talking is over, we need to see some action.”

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