The plan is to give first-time byers first refusal on new build homes, but the plans have been questioned as unworkable and unfair.
Speaking over the weekend, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “Giving first-time buyers first dibs on developments – will support the aspiration of hard working young Brits and make their dream of home ownership a reality.”
But when questioned about the policy, Labour’s election boss Shabana Mahmood was unable to explain how it would work in practice.
She was asked by the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg: “Why would a first-time buyer, maybe with no kids, no dependents, or nobody they’re caring for, get priority over a family that might be crammed into a tiny flat and desperately needs a bigger house?”
And the presenter also said: “So, if you go to the estate agent as a first time buyer, do they say, ‘oh, yes, sure, you’re going to be able to buy this house more easily than someone who might be offering £5,000 more’?”
Mahmood merely replied that “it’s about ensuring that people can actually get on the housing ladder. And first-time buyers, as we know, are particularly struggling. So, the point around the first dibs policy is actually to try and tilt the system in favour of those who simply cannot get a home”.
She insisted “it’s a big intervention” that would require a change to the law.
Commenting on the idea, Jonathan Rolande, from the National Association of Property Buyers, said: “Labour’s plans show good intentions to take positive steps to intervene in the property market, to re-balance it and to make it fairer.
“On the other hand, it makes me very wary. Government interventions have failed in the past, making difficult situations worse. Will this be different? The proposal raises many questions. Will it become illegal to sell one of these earmarked properties to a non-first time buyer? Does the first timer have to commit to living there? Who will build them knowing that the market is very limited and therefore prices will be lower? Will that lower price be reflected in the land cost? If so, might that mean fewer people get planning consent meaning fewer properties will be built?
“It’s all too early to say. But I struggle to see why such a bold move is needed when the system is already balanced in the first-timer’s favour. They already receive a large discount in Stamp Duty – on a £250,000 home this amounts to a zero liability for a FTB, £7500 for a second-time buyer and £12,500 for an overseas investor.
“These thresholds could very easily be altered to give the first time buyer even more advantage and the impact on the planning system and builder’s willingness to build the new homes we desperately need would be reduced.”
The level of new homes being developed across the country continues to fall short of demand.
Rolande added: “The rate of new builds is not even keeping up with demand, let alone doing anything to put right the backlog of property building that has developed over decades. Population growth and the increases in the formation of households mean that more people are competing for relatively fewer properties to buy or rent like some awful game of musical chairs.
“The shortage of property leads to spiralling prices and rents and impacts almost every aspect of our lives including health, social mobility, family structures and the wider economy. We urgently need more homes.”