Editor: Vernon Pethard advocates resurrecting the Help to Buy Scheme to assist young people and families on to the housing ladder (p25, 15.03.24). I profoundly disagree that this would be a sensible solution to the housing crisis.

Help to buy scheme

Support schemes initiated by George Osborne from 2013 led to substantial house price inflation and did little to increase supply over and above the new builds that would have been developed in any event.

What the government should have been addressing was Help to Supply, not Help to Buy.

Restricting these schemes to new builds effectively allowed major housebuilders to capture the first-time-buyer market, pricing qualifying homes 15% to 20% above true market value.

Many first-time buyers found, when they needed to move to a larger property to accommodate growing families, that they were trapped in negative equity, inhibiting a sale.

The problem was exacerbated because potential first-time buyers of their property were unable to do so through Help to Buy, as it no longer conformed to the government’s restriction of being a new build.

Subsidising these schemes from 2013 to 2023 cost the Treasury, ie taxpayers, an estimated £29bn, much of which disappeared into the pockets of major housebuilders, whose chief executives benefited from extraordinary bonuses, perhaps the most egregious being the then Persimmon CEO, awarded a bonus of £110m, but reduced to £75m as a consequence of public outrage.

Over the period of these government subsidies, major housebuilders benefited from dividends of some £2.3bn, but research has revealed many first-time buyers or assisted purchasers would have bought their homes in any event without government help.

One way to assist first-time buyers and young families would be by requiring major housebuilders to bring forward development sites, rather than sitting on them to increase values, through a substantial levy per unit on consented developments not started within 12 months of planning permission being granted.

Anthony H Ratcliffe, Ratcliffe Chartered Surveyors