Carl Sargeant, Minister for Housing and Regeneration
As Minister for Housing and Regeneration, my overarching priority is to increase the supply of housing in Wales. As part of this work, I can today announce the launch of Help to Buy – Wales: a £170 million shared equity loan Scheme designed to support home ownership, stimulate building activity and provide a welcome boost to the housing sector.
From today, builders who wish to participate in Help to Buy – Wales can register with the scheme in preparation for the first shared equity loans to be made available to buyers from 2 January 2014; with the scheme due to conclude on 31 March 2016.
Help to Buy – Wales Scheme Design
One of the consequences of the global financial crisis and ensuing recession has been a tightening of lending conditions and, in relation to mortgage lending specifically, higher deposit requirements for potential home-buyers. These changes in the mortgage market have made home ownership less affordable and, as a consequence, led to a fall in house building activity as builders have scaled back their plans.
Help to Buy – Wales seeks to address these issues by making home ownership possible for buyers who have small cash deposits, but can otherwise afford a mortgage, by giving them access to an additional Welsh Government shared equity loan. This shared equity loan will make up the shortfall between the purchase price of a property and the funding available to buyers through their cash deposit and mortgage offer.
Buyers can apply for a Help to Buy – Wales shared equity loan of between 10% to 20% of the purchase price of their desired property, provided that:
- the property is a new-build home from a builder registered with the scheme;
- the property purchase price does not exceed £300,000;
- the buyer has a 5% deposit and passes an affordability assessment to ensure they are able to meet their future financial obligations; and
- having purchased the property, the home is the buyer’s only residence (Help to Buy – Wales is not designed to support buy-to-let investments).
It will be important for people to understand the terms and conditions associated with these loans. People who benefit from the Help to Buy – Wales scheme will be required to pay off their shared equity loan within 25 years, but they will also have the option to repay the loan at any point during that period – allowing them the freedom to make a repayment plan that suits them.
When a buyer chooses to pay off their equity loan they will do so at the prevailing market value, whether that value is more or less than the amount of the original equity loan. This offers the buyer some insurance against potential falls in property prices in the future.
The Help to Buy – Wales shared equity loan will be interest free for the first five years. However, from year six onwards, interest will be charged at 1.75% of the original equity loan amount. This interest rate will then slowly rise each year by the increase (if any) in the Retail Price Index (RPI) plus 1%. The detailed terms and conditions associated with these loans is set out in the Help to Buy – Wales Buyers’ Guide and supporting documentation.
Differences between Help to Buy – Wales and Similar Support Offered in England
In comparison to similar support offered in England, there are some notable differences in the design of Help to Buy – Wales that will ensure that our scheme is simpler, fairer and easier to access for smaller builders:
- Price cap on eligible properties – In England the price cap for eligible properties is set at £600,000. In Wales the cap will be £300,000. This reflects the different nature of the housing market in Wales and will ensure that our support is focussed towards the people most in need of our assistance.
- Flow of funds – in England, at the point of sale, the shared equity loan funds are paid directly to the house builder. For the scheme in Wales, the funds will be transferred to the buyer’s solicitor. This reduces the legal burdens placed on builders who wish to participate (shifting responsibility for handling government funds to the buyer’s solicitor) and reflects the arrangements under a standard mortgage.
- Administration of the scheme – To minimise complexity, all of the services associated of the scheme in Wales will be provided by a single operator: Help to Buy (Wales) Ltd.
Every effort is being made to communicate the details of Help to Buy – Wales with members of the public, builders and other interested parties. However, should Assembly Members be contacted in relation to the initiative, I would encourage you to direct all enquires to the Help to Buy – Wales website. This website provides full details of the scheme design, the process for builder registration and the eligibility criteria for buyers.