Homes England has extended the deadline for the government’s Help to Buy scheme, following growing calls from construction firms and other organisations to do so due to delays.
Homes England, the administrator of the Help to Buy programme, said it had decided to push back the original 28 February deadline due to delays in the construction of new homes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The deadline has now been extended for the practical completion of purchases under the programme by one month, till 31 March.
The government had been falling under increased pressure from developers and the Home Builders Federation (HBF) to extend the date for practical completion under the current scheme to give developers more time to complete developments that had been worst hit by the pandemic.
In an update last Friday (15 January), Homes England confirmed it would no longer enforce the first longstop date of 28 February, as long as practical completion had been reached on properties on or before the 31 March.
It added that this was still the date that legal completion had to take place.
The note read: “We’ve listened to homebuilders’ concerns that this date may not be achievable, and while the government has made it clear that building, buying, and selling of homes should continue during the third national lockdown, we are aware that some Help to Buy homebuilders and homebuyers may be experiencing delays.”
The only exception, it said, will be if a property was reserved before 30 June 2020 and Homes England had previously agreed to allow the home to practically and legally complete on 31 May.
The new 31 March deadline follows on from an earlier extension in December 2020, which, again, arose after significant lobbying on the part of construction firms.
‘Necessary and sensible move’
Commenting on the extension, David O’Leary, policy director at HBF, said: “This is something we have been pushing government hard, on and we welcome the extension.
“Considering the delays caused by Coronavirus, it is a necessary and sensible move that will enable sales to be completed.
“It will be of huge relief to those customers who would otherwise not have been able to move into their new home.”
Housing associations were also part of the calls, with Metropolitan Thames Valley (MTVH) writing to housing minister Chris Pincher saying many homebuyers would miss out if the deadline was not extended.
Kush Rawal, director of residential investment at MTVH, said: “We’re pleased the government has announced this extension, which will help support buyers whose new homes are only delayed due to the impact of the pandemic.
“The housing market will need further intervention and flexibility from the government in the months to come, but this is a welcome step.”
A lack of further extension would have also likely seen a number of homebuyers lose thousands of pounds in solicitor fees and surveying costs.
The current Help to Buy scheme – which sees the government provide loans of up to 40% toward the purchase of a new home – is set to be replaced in April by a new, updated scheme.
Under the new two-year programme, purchases will have regional price limits, with homebuyers only allowed to secure loans for properties 1.5 times higher than the average price for a first-time home in a given region.
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