Leeds tops national table for Help to Buy take-up

A GOVERNMENT savings scheme to help young people on to the housing ladder has proved more popular in Leeds than anywhere else in the UK.

The Help to Buy ISA, available through banks and building societies, is aimed at first-time buyers, who receive a £50 bonus from the government for every £200 they save up to a maximum of £3,000.

New figures released by the Office for National Statistics have now revealed that the take-up rate was higher in Leeds than in 19 other major cities. From 2015-2016, a total of 850 ISAs were opened - compared to just eight in bottom-of-the-table Oxford. In Sheffield, 474 potential buyers signed up.

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The scheme's popularity in Leeds has been attributed to the average house price in the city remaining below £250,000 - the upper limit of a purchase made using Help to Buy outside of London.

Graphic: Graeme BandeiraGraphic: Graeme Bandeira
Graphic: Graeme Bandeira

Other large cities with buoyant property markets, such as Bristol and Birmingham, also saw several hundred ISAs opened, but in smaller, affluent hotspots such as Winchester, Oxford and Cambridge, the take-up rate was low - reflecting the inaccessibility of the entry level of the local market.

Only 11 accounts were opened in Cambridge and 29 in Winchester, which both have high average house prices.

Property website Sellhousefast.uk expressed concern that the £250,000 limit was insufficient in expensive areas outside of London. The limit to qualify for the scheme in the capital is a £450,000 property, although average London prices now exceed £600,000.

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Robby du Toit said: “It is a competitive housing market, and with house prices booming in the last few years, it has never been more difficult to be a first time buyer. Whilst the Help to Buy Scheme has enabled people in places such as Leeds and Birmingham, it is clear the government should reassess the scheme to benefit everyone, before people can no longer apply in December 2019."