Help to Buy ISA scheme proves a hit in Leeds but flops in Oxford

Wed, 01 Feb 2017

Help to Buy ISA scheme proves a hit in Leeds but flops in Oxford
The Help to Buy ISA scheme has seen very little take-up in Oxford and Cambridge, while Leeds has proven to be the most popular city for first-time buyers using the government scheme.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) produced figures from December 2015 until September 2016, listing the number of ISAs opened in a number of cities. During that time period, Leeds had the highest number of ISAs being opened, with 850, followed by Birmingham with 594 and Sheffield with 474. The top ten was completed by Northampton, Newcastle, Coventry, Nottingham, Portsmouth, Sunderland and Swansea.

At the other end of the scale, Oxford was bottom with just eight ISAs opened, with Cambridge faring only slightly better with 11 ISAs opened.

A significant reason behind this low take-up is the high house prices in these two cities. Outside of London, the scheme can only be used for properties up to a value of £250,000, so many properties are not eligible in these areas. Meanwhile, the average house price in Leeds is less than £250,000, a key reason for the popularity of the scheme in the West Yorkshire city as lots of properties therefore qualify.

Launched in December 2015, the Help to Buy ISA allows prospective homebuyers to save up to £200 each month, up to a total maximum of £12,000. The government boosts your savings by 25 per cent, meaning that if you saved the full £12,000 possible into your Help to Buy ISA, you would end up with £15,000 to use towards your first home.

Robby Du Toit, of Sellhousefast.uk, 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 [to get onto the property ladder], it is clear the government should reassess the scheme to benefit everyone, before people can no longer apply in December 2019."
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