Teachers lose priority place in home-buying schemes

12th September 2008 at 01:00
New Government rescue package for first-time buyers makes household income the main measure rather than public sector professions

Money previously promised to teachers to help them buy their first homes is now being offered to all first home-buyers on low incomes.

Last week's high-profile housing rescue package spelt the end for the only remaining government home ownership funding targeted at public sector key workers.

All eligible house-buyers will be exempt from the 1 per cent stamp duty on homes selling for between pound;125,000 and pound;175,000 over the next year. And households earning less than pound;60,000 will be offered loans free of charge for five years on new properties in a shared ownership scheme.

Education officials had previously regarded the schemes as a fundamental tool in attracting teachers to London, and other expensive parts of England where recruitment is more difficult.

Unions, assembled in Brighton this week for the TUC's annual conference, called for more support for key worker housing - not less.

The TES revealed last month (August 29) that housing associations had shelved schemes to lend deposits to first-time buyers to help them get on the property ladder.

They shut down the MyChoice Homebuy scheme, which was run by eight housing associations, while they waited for the release of pound;200 million which had been previously allocated to them but had yet to materialise. At the time, the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) said it was planning to alter the way this cash was allocated.

Following last week's government announcement, several major housing associations such as Moat, Metropolitan and others confirmed they would reopen their shared equity home-buying schemes. Money would again be available to help people buy their own homes, new or second-hand.

But the money would be shared among all first home-buyers with incomes under pound;60,000 - not just teachers, nurses and police officers.

The Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) said last year that the key worker housing schemes helped to retain experienced teachers, especially in London. This week, a spokesman for the agency acknowledged that the economic climate made it difficult for many people to buy homes.

He did not criticise the Government's decision to end preferential treatment for key public sector workers. "As key workers, teachers can benefit from the Government's home-buy scheme," he said.

"The aim is to help alleviate recruitment and retention problems in frontline public sector services, in areas where there is evidence that these difficulties are linked to the high cost of housing."

But Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said it was essential that the needs of key workers were prioritised.

"In principle, widening access to first-time buyers is not an issue, but this would mean an increase and not a cut in funding," she said.

"If the key worker scheme is replaced with a first-time buyer scheme, there will be no plan to attract teachers to hotspots where there is a desperate skills shortage."

All of the pound;1 billion in emergency measures announced last week will be funded by bringing forward money from the CLG's budget over the next three years.

A total of Pounds 700m will be brought forward from the 201011 affordable housing budget, trade paper Inside Housing reports. The pound;300m for a new shared equity scheme, Homebuy Direct, will come from funding allocated for regional development agencies between 2009 and 2011.

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