Wales

Help to Buy scheme for new-build homes begins in Wales

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Media captionThe building society says checks are in place to prevent another housing boom

A £170m Help to Buy scheme has come into force which aims to help people afford new-build properties.

Buyers of new-build homes under £300,000, who have a 5% deposit, can apply for a loan of up to 20% of the property's value.

The Principality Building Society said it will bring "stability and growth" to the housing market.

Its chief executive said he understood concerns it could fuel another housing boom but said checks were in place.

The programme mirrors a similar one operating in England since last April.

The aim is to boost demand for new build properties and kick-start more housing construction projects.

Principality head Graeme Yorston said: "Help to Buy will continue to help the market to achieve some stability and some growth going forward.

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Media captionGraeme Yorston says it is a really important step forward

Wider picture

"2014 is really important with Help to Buy coming in because that will just add to the sustainability of the recovery we are seeing in the market and make sure that people can access funds where they may not have had the deposit previously."

The scheme should make banks and building societies more willing to lend.

But it does mean an increased risk for the taxpayer if there's a change in the market or in people's circumstances.

Mr Yorston told BBC Wales it was important that people look at the wider economic picture and the importance construction plays in that.

Image caption Graeme Yorston said he did not think the scheme would lead to overheating in the market

"There's great research which says the benefit of people in construction working is a benefit to the economy as a whole," he said.

There are concerns that the scheme could lead to inflated house prices and another unsustainable bubble in the housing market.

But the Principality chief executive rejected the idea that it would lead to "overheating" in the housing market.

He said at the moment demand for houses was outstripping the supply available and the scheme would increase the supply and keep prices stable.

Inflated house prices played a significant part in the financial crisis and Mr Yorston said he understood people's fears.

"I think inevitably when interest rates do start to rise, I don't think they will rise steeply and quickly but they will begin to rise gradually.

"And all of the Bank of England officials understand that quick rises in interest rates will stifle the economy.

'Wider economy'

"So I think there's enough checks and balances in place now not to see us return to some of the mistakes we made in the past."

Mr Yorston added that borrowers would have to show the loan was affordable over the long-term.

He agreed there were risks involved but he believed they were small.

The chief executive added that the Bank of England was monitoring the situation and had already taken steps to ensure the housing market didn't become overheated by withdrawing mortgage loans from the Funding for Lending scheme.

John Stewart, director of economic affairs at the Home Builders Federation, said he also expected the scheme to help boost the wider economy in Wales.

"It's relatively small within the whole of the housing market but certainly it's going to help house builders sell more homes," he said.

"And if they can sell more homes they can build more homes and that means more economic activity, more jobs being created, and that will help the economic recovery in Wales."

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