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The Government has admitted that “most” people will not be able to take up Boris Johnson’s “benefits to bricks” scheme to allow welfare payments to secure mortgages.
The Prime Minister announced a plan earlier this month to enable people who are in work but also on housing benefit to use welfare payments towards a mortgage, rather than automatically going directly to private landlords and housing associations.
However, critics have pointed out that welfare rules taper the amount of Universal Credit received when the claimant’s savings exceed £6,000, and it stops entirely when savings exceed £16,000, a sum that would not go far in putting down a deposit in many parts of the UK.
The Department for Work and Pensions has admitted “that it is likely most will not be in a position to take up the new policy”, according to Labour.
The department made the comment in answer to a written parliamentary question from shadow secretary for levelling up Lisa Nandy.
Ms Nandy said: “Homeownership rates have plummeted under the Conservatives. Now we learn that even Boris Johnson’s own Government doesn’t think his plan to fix it will work.
You can’t get Universal Credit if you have more than £16k in savings.
As usual, the government promise big but don’t do the hard work to make their ideas work in practice.
Explaining on @SkyNews why this latest government announcement is unworkable 👇 pic.twitter.com/jDVFyiYmiv
— Lisa Nandy (@lisanandy) June 9, 2022
“We need far more ambition if we’re to solve the housing crisis and give families the security of owning their own home. That’s why Labour has plans to build more affordable homes, link the definition of ‘affordable’ to local wages, and give first-time buyers first dibs on new developments”.
Mr Johnson’s announcement of the scheme, as part of a wider home buying shake-up, came after a bruising Tory revolt against his leadership, with 148 of his own MPs voting against him in a confidence vote.
He also set out an extension of the Right to Buy scheme, which has made home ownership a reality for two million households since the 1980s, for housing association tenants in England.
But Labour said the Department for Levelling Up has refused to confirm that an impact assessment was carried out before Mr Johnson’s announcement, or that the extension’s impact on the stock of social housing was reviewed.
A Government spokesperson said: “We want to make home ownership a reality for more people, removing barriers and turning benefits into bricks. How much people choose to save depends on their circumstances but owning a home is a real aspiration for many and this policy supports that.
“This plan is about opening the door for those on the lowest incomes to make their own choices about whether to plan for home ownership in future. In the wider package, the extension of Right to Buy to housing association tenants expands this popular policy to two and a half million more people.”