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What’s good about Help to Buy? It will make young people Conservatives

30 September 2013

At a party in Bethnal Green recently I found myself at the receiving end of an impassioned lecture about government policy. My lecturer was 28-year-old Londoner Sam who works in production, has little interest in politics and hasn’t voted before. He’s saving, he tells me, to put down a 5 percent deposit on a place and the Government will guarantee another 15 percent to help him secure a mortgage. Good for him, I thought. But I’d rather not talk about government policy at a party so I wished him luck and moved on.

Yet the conversation stuck with me. When people my age (I’m in my early twenties) hear that I work in Westminster there are two common reactions: either their eyes glaze over or I get an earful about uni fees, wages or once from an artist, during an otherwise pleasant dinner, an hour-long rant about cuts to the arts. But this time, Sam was excited by a politics that was speaking his language and a policy that would help him get out of the room he rents for £600 a month somewhere in Zone 2.

The scheme gives an incentive to save, keep a good credit rating and stay abreast the news in politics and finance. This is a big shift for ‘Generation Rent’. Interest rates (and salaries) have been so low while we’ve been earners that there’s no been no point in saving, and when you’re not saving or paying a mortgage you’re unlikely to take an interest in the key issues that decide elections.


Surely, this change in attitudes should be welcomed and it presents an electoral advantage for the Conservatives. Renters are less likely to vote and they are less likely to vote Conservative.

So Help to Buy may turn some of these former renters into Conservative voters, not least because Labour is hostile to the scheme. It’s due to run for three years, but that doesn’t guarantee it could weather a Labour Government with other plans. They want to build 200,000 homes a year – this Government may have helped that number of people to buy their own home by 2015.

Voters know which side their bread is buttered on so Help to Buy could create for Cameron, just as the Right to Buy did for Thatcher, a new generation of Tory voters out of ‘Generation Rent’. And fears about a housing bubble? Modern Britain was literally built on them. It seems overly righteous for older generations who reaped the great financial rewards of rising house prices to be so vehement in denying them to others. Extortionate house prices are a problem in cities, but across the country many homeowners will be grateful for the security of their equity rising again.

Moreover, the scheme shows that Tory strategists are listening to activists – here is a simple, vote-winning policy that will go down well on the doorstep, and one that they can warn Labour would take away.

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  • IPIN Global

    It might gain a few Tory voters – but only for one term. Help to Buy has been poorly thought through and then handed to the BoE as soon as the criticism becomes too much. What most have missed is the BoE has no real idea on mortgage lending either – it took them until 2012 to realise that 100% mortgages were not a good idea – more:

  • Nobody

    It will do exactly the opposite. For example my wife and I voted Conservative in 2010 and thanks to this policy will be voting and possibly even campaigning to unseat our local member, who has a wafer-thin majority over Labour. Many under-40s in London are going to be suckered by this into financial ruin, and will blame the Conservatives forever. Cameron and Osborne understand that, they simply do not care – they are careerists above all and politics is merely a stepping stone.

  • Dogsnob

    This policy will not go down well on my doorstep.
    The simple fact is that this government continues the scheme started by Labour, to pump the nation full of cheap imported labour, abandoning our own young people, in order to lower labour costs.

    Sounds good except that it was those very wages – now slashed or eliminated – that in the past were put into paying for a place to live. This is not the Eighties. The Thatcherite housing-stock horse has been flogged to death and the cart is now going nowhere.
    Your 28 year old Sam who ‘works in production’ (of what?) is a rarer thing than you seem to think; to a great many young people nowadays, the gap between them and their own home, is growing by £680 per week.
    Don’t go hoping for too many people to even bother voting next time. The choice we have is between Labour who will preside over more immigration and more pressure on ‘the hardworking’, or the Tories, who will do nothing to stem it.
    As my dear, sweet Grandmother was wont to proclaim, “Politicians? I’ve shat em afore breakfast”

  • brit1664

    As a first time buyer and one of the Tories favoured hard workers I will vote for any party which pledges to get rid of Help to Buy. I strongly believe in the free market and all these government levels of stimulus to keep house prices inflated is sickening and damaging to our economy. All we are doing is kicking the can down the road and not fixing the economy. Too high house prices is the political issue to me which is most important.

    Cameron is so out of touch with his base.

    • Ralph Kent

      As far as I’m aware, the only party that has spoken out against the insanity of HTB so far are the Greens. I share your sentiment and will equally only entertain voting for a party that pledges to abolish this idiotic scheme.

  • Lordmuck

    H2B just leaves me shaking my head in disbelief. It’s effectively an admission by Cameron they have no idea how to fix the economy, so they’ll just pump up another housing bubble.

  • MarkWadsworth

    This article is satire, isn’t it?

  • Dave Hogarth

    What is this waffle!? Stop talking BS at cheese and wine parties and look at the cold hard facts. Go and revise figures from ONS, Land registry, CMS and understand why its such a monumentally bad idea. Ill give you a clue; there is no headroom! If you’re too stupid to understand then please do not seek a career in politics.

  • Jonny Castro

    Road to Serfdom, Tiffany, look it up and read it. Your heroine Maggie did.

  • andagain

    What’s good about Help to Buy? It will make young people Conservatives

    By sending the cost of putting a roof over your head to ever higher levels. Perhaps the Conservative Party can then tell everybody how much it cares about the cost of living.

  • TylerDirden

    Wouldn’t ‘generation rent’ be just as happy if they were told the govt. would make it impossible to raise their rent beyond CPI / RPI and more than once annually ?
    In addition, insituting protections for tenants that make it much harder for landlords to arbitrarily kick them out (so as to be able to make plans for the medium-term), like in 90% of continental europe, should make them ecstatic, no ?

  • John Pope

    Help to buy is a joke that my kids wont be using. Let the market correct itself from an already obscene bubble. HTB only means there will now have to be a HTB to infinity, as prices are consistently pushed up.

    My disgust to this government and the last for wrecking the housing market and encouraging a life of debt for our next generation.

  • David Lindsay

    Council house sales did not have this effect. It baffled Thatcher that it didn’t, and perhaps she had a point. But there we are. People bought their council houses and then even carried on sitting as Labour Councillors.

    Being educated entirely apart from the population at large now sometimes makes young people Tories. But nothing else ever does. And this scheme is not aimed that them.

    I am not talking about opinions that would seem to correspond more to a certain idea of Conservatism. I am talking about tribal voting, the tribalism of British voting being now at least as much generational as anything else.

    Practically none of the state-educated 94 per cent of people under 30 would ever vote Tory in a million years, and nor even would at least half of the other six per cent. In both categories, the only exceptions also wear monocles, or twin sets and pearls, or both.

  • Tom Tom

    You will have to get coherent Tiffany now you have left university and not litter the Web with streams of verbiage that will come back to haunt you.

  • the viceroy’s gin

    So the Cameroons’ aim is to buy votes from a particular age demographic? It’s about pure self-interested politics for them?

    So it’s about using the public weal to buy votes for the Cameroons now, even when the public weal isn’t so weal?

    Do you Cameroons still wonder why we conservatives reject you?

    • Alex

      Well put; I haven’t yet heard why I should subsidise Sam’s purchase in order that he might vote Conservative. I really don’t care if Cameron’s job after 2015 is flipping burgers.

  • Alex

    “They want to build 200,000 homes a year – this Government may have helped that number of people to buy their own home by 2015.”
    Now, Tiffany, you can’t really think that a taxpayer subsidy of 200,000 sales of existing houses is the same as building 200,000 new homes? Can you? Can you work out the increase in the supply of homes in each case (take your time).

  • pagodanskaya

    It’s as if the writer of the piece doesn’t understand that rates rise as well as fall. ‘It will make young people Conservatives’ presumes that Sam does not lose his house when rates rise. If he does, he will curse the Tories.

  • old_labour

    Sam “works in production”. Is that manufacturing production or something artsy?

    If the latter, he sounds like a dubious candidate for a 25 year mortgage, although in the Evening Standard property section, some individuals are being offered 35 year repayment terms.

    The article is not concerned with increasing the supply of housing or making it more affordable, but a mis-selling scheme that could see Sam in negative equity with a mill stone around his neck and all for short term political advantage.

    If the downsides happen, Sam will be cursing the government for this scheme.

  • D Whiggery

    “What’s good about Help to Buy? It will make young people Conservatives”

    Yes, just long enough for them to buy a house, after which they’ll feel guilty about it and go back to voting Labour.

  • itdoesntaddup

    I’m not sure that people who come to realise they’ve been conned into paying far too much for a house are natural supporters. In any case, the evidence of history is that creating housing bubbles tends to result in the incumbent government being kicked out rather more often than not, whereas falling prices are no bar to re-election.

    The basis of Osborne’s wheeze is to try to sell off the state banks by trying to con markets into believing that the bubble is forever. The buyers who are being helped at taxpayer expense are merely the pawns being sacrificed, and the same fate awaits the buyers of the banks. Osborne hopes he won’t be around when it all goes TU again in an even bigger banking collapse than Brown’s.

    Renters will not thank Osborne for inflating the bubble, pushing up rents and making the prospect of truly being able to afford to buy a house (rather than just the low start payments on some subsidy scheme) ever more out of reach. Landlords will thank him for the opportunity for some very low risk capital gains – at least as long as they are given due warning about when to cash up. Otherwise the only real beneficiaries are those planning to sell up and emigrate.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    ‘It will make young people Conservatives’

    Not necessarily. What if they are on the State’s payroll?

    • Tom Tom

      How does being locked into a geography match with labour flexibility ? Is that state going to become Purchaser of Last Resort to lubricate job mobility ? After all there are loads of unsold houses with people unable to build their lives because of yet another housing downturn……and we get them regularly – remember 1992 ? Remember 1974 ?

  • dalai guevara

    Offsetting H2B by a mansion tax is the new inter-generational paradigm.
    Surely, this is cost neutral.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      Yes, you socialists are good about “new inter-generational paradigms, aren’t you”?

      When can we expect the “new-new inter-generational paradigm” to arrive?

  • monty61

    So we should lumber the taxpayer with billions in unaffordable high-risk guarantees while distoring the market and inflating prices (precisely the opposite of what’s needed by young buyers) in order to turn out new Tory voters? It wouldn’t surprise me that this was the cynical thinking behind H2B but it’s utterly depressing to hear it expressed in such bald terms.

    There are far more efficient ways to tackle high house prices for young people, such as de-rig the game (currently set up to favour BTL speculators) and build more on a grand scale. The game was rigged by Labour but since it’s Tory voters who are reaping the benefits perhaps no surprise that the Government does nothing to tackle the underlying causes in favour of dangerous short-term gimmickry.

    • Ed Griffin

      Could you not argue that mortgages of any kind – government guaranteed or not – distort the market and inflate prices?

      The bar for getting a mortgage for a decent house is currently set at some level of income and some % for deposit – maybe a sensible level from a banks risk perspective but an arbitrary level from a buyers perspective. This policy lowers the deposit requirement but not the income requirement. So it helps people trapped renting. But you still need a good income so the risk of the guarantee is not so bad, and of course you pay more interest to compensate.

  • Denis_Cooper

    Is the author related to, or otherwise acquainted with, Dame Shirley Porter?

    • Tom Tom

      she can always ask Alan Duncan…..

  • Ralph Kent

    Yes, HTB is a just a swell idea isn’t it? Just so long as there are plenty of people at the bottom of the great Ponzi scheme to keep propping up prices. Seems that the government is ensuring that is the case by allowing 85% of new-build London properties to be sold to overseas buyers. The only downside with a Ponzi scheme like this is death and taxes – the attraction of continuing to inflate an already overheated property market is increased stamp duty on purchases as prices move up to the next threshold, and also, when you die, more likely that more will be lost to Treasury in inheritance tax. Hard one to avoid on both counts – no wonder they want us all to own.

    As any right thinking person can see, the way to solve a supply-side problem is not via more cheap credit – this time bankrolled by UK General Taxation (95% LTV mortgages were what caused subprime 5 years ago, but that’s already been forgotten). Furthermore – why are UK politicians so keen to commit so much of the countries wealth to a non-productive asset – housing? The Government should be rent / buy neutral, and more money should flow out of housing and into productive assets. If the Conservatives really cared about the young and ‘hardworkingpeople’ they would:

    1) Limit overseas investors buying up all new UK housing stock;
    2) 0% VAT refurb to increase supply and boost construction;
    3) Compile a database of BTL landlords so that HMRC actually started collecting income tax and CGT from landlords (HMRC admit they aren’t even trying on this score at the moment)
    4) Provide assistance to those who want to downsize but find the process intimidating or complicated (elderly);
    5) 200% Council Tax on second homes / unrented properties;

    But there are no Middle England votes in those policies, so far better to keep the phoney illusion of wealth alive with fraudulent schemes like FLS and HTB. Anything to keep Middle England out of negative equity, that’s all that matters. And anything to keep the volume housebuilders, who donate so generously to the Conservatives, happy.

    If you think this is a Tory vote-winner, you might be in for a bit of a shock come 2015. My vote is lost for good, and I’m looking forward to the day I leave the country with its relentless financial tyranny of the young. How much debt does this country want to continue to saddle future generations with? How much more zombie economics do we have to endure?

    • monty61

      Indeed, well said. It’s no Tory vote winner. We can see the mess our kids are growing up into. All of the above are essentially politically neutral, common sense things to do. But vested interests win out, as always.

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