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What’s the deal with starter homes?

Suggested house design for starter homes

Last month, the Prime Minister announced that 200,000 starter homes would be built to help young people onto the property ladder. But what the hell is a starter home and what’s it got to do with me you ask? Well, don’t get your knickers in a twist, I’m about to explain.

The Starter Homes scheme is a government initiative to a) increase the number of houses being built in Britain and b) to help more people buy their first home. The Tories do seem pretty obsessed with people buying houses which I suppose reflects society. I think it’s pretty much hard-wired into British people that homeownership is a necessity, whereas in other European countries they are much more content to rent forever. Perhaps they don’t have assured shorthold tenancies which give them hardly any security in their homes.

“Hardworking young people want to plan for the future and enjoy the security of being able to own their own home. I want to help them do just that.” – Prime Minister David Cameron

How will the Starter Home scheme work?

Well there are limited details available at the moment but basically the government is loosening planning requirements to allow developers to build on brownfield land and save on costs usually incurred by having to provide affordable housing (i.e. social housing and shared ownership). As the house builders will save money, they’ll be able to discount the homes they build by at least 20%.

Starter homes will only be available to first time buyers under the age of 40. Also, there’ll be a cap on the value of the home of up to £250,000 outside London and £450,000 inside London. You’ll still need to raise a deposit and get a mortgage but the discount should help you to find a more affordable home.

If you want to sell up within 5 years, you’ll need to offer the discount to the buyer, which basically means you have to repay the 20% saving you made. So this scheme isn’t for you if you think you’ll want to move on pretty quickly.

I’m interested! When can I buy a starter home?

Firstly, you have to get in the queue behind me! The government has said that building could start within months, which is suitably vague bearing in mind we could have another political party in government in May. David Cameron’s pledge is to build 200,000 discounted homes by 2020, which is fantastic news if you’re hoping to buy a house in the next 5 years. So far, more than 30 house builders have said they support the plans.

You can actually sign up and register to you interest on the New Homes website.

Are the homes cheaper because they’re crap?

Apparently not. A so-called Design Panel has been put together including some world class architects who have suggested some designs for the house builders to consider for their starter home developments. The image used above (copyright Farrells) is one of these designs.

The idea behind the starter homes is to build attractive, well-proportioned and high quality homes that ‘meet the demands of modern life’. Although I’m not sure what that last statement is supposed to mean.

Is this just pre-General Election bollocks?

Both the Financial Times and the Guardian have suggested that the announcement is the Prime Minister’s attempt to “woo” voters. The problem is that there is going to be a General Election on 7th May and the Conservative / Lib Dem coalition could be out. Who knows what the government is going to look like come 8th May. Will it be red, blue, yellow, green or, God help us, purple?

If the Tories don’t win, or become part of another coalition, the starter home scheme might not go ahead, which would be a real shame. I really don’t know who’s best to vote for this year, but I hope whoever wins will be on the first time buyer’s side when it comes to housing.

Do you think it’s right that we seem to be obsessed with buying houses in this country? Should we learn to love renting? Tell me in the comments, I’d love to hear what you think.

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