Now Britain’s housing market is showing real signs of life, should the government abandon its “Help to Buy” scheme to boost access to the market for homebuyers?
Economists and property analysts polled by Reuters over the last week were split. Two weeks ago, a majority of economists put the chances of another UK housing bubble forming at 50 percent or greater, catalysed by the Help to Buy programme.
Here’s a few comments on either side of the debate. Cancel Help to Buy:
“The housing market was slowly recovering already, it has been good for the sector, but in the long term it is throwing money at something that is not the solution. There is a danger we are creating the next bubble and not learning from what’s happened previously.” Mark Hughes, co-head of research, Panmure Gordon
“One of the problems with the Help to Buy scheme is that it operates on the demand side of the housing market without doing anything to boost supply. Now that the BoE has made a commitment to keeping rates low for a considerable period of time, and is already providing a considerable amount of liquidity to banks, I can foresee problems once the scheme is extended in 2014 to cover existing homes. Given the problems which arose as a result of a debt-fuelled boom up until 2007, and the desire expressed by politicians in recent years to rebalance the economy, I see little merit in inflating the housing market.” Peter Dixon, global equities economist, Commerzbank
“The government’s Help to Buy scheme has thrown the gradual adjustment that was taking place in the housing market into reverse. Help to Buy incentivises the banks to lend precisely to those individuals who, absent the scheme, would not be offered credit. It risks re-inflating the housing market bubble and households already appear to be buying into the prospect of rising house prices. The increase in house prices alongside a loose monetary policy will help boost growth. However, for this debt-financed consumer demand to prove sustainable it must be met with an increase in the ability of the UK economy to produce goods and services. We believe that the supply potential of the UK economy has been severely damaged by the banking crisis. As such, the pick-up in demand will not prove lasting and ultimately Help to Buy pushes the UK economy further away from much needed rebalancing.” Andrew Brigden and Phil Lachowycz, economists at Fathom Financial Consulting