How Boris Johnson plans to 'unbolt the door to home ownership' in the UK

Boris Johnson delivered a speech on home ownership which was aimed at cementing his place as prime minister after a tumultuous few weeks. Credit: Number 10

Boris Johnson has said he wants to "unbolt the door" to home ownership in the UK with plans critics are attacking as poorly thought out policies which will "do nothing" to address Britain's housing crisis.

The PM sought to ease the intense political pressure he's been under recently after narrowly winning a confidence vote, by cementing his place as prime minister with a raft of announcements he claimed would make it easier for people to buy their own homes.

Labour said the plans lacked detail, describing them as "back of the envelope policies that have no realistic chance of success".

Leader Sir Keir Starmer claimed not even the Tories believe the plans will work, adding that it was clear the government had run "completely out of ideas".

Despite criticisms, the prime minister did announce a what would be a dramatic shake-up of Britain's housing market with aims to help people onto the property ladder.

What plans did he announce?

  • To give housing association renters the right to buy their homes

Delivering his speech in Blackpool, the prime minister said the two-and-a-half million people who rent their homes from housing associations will become eligible for the Right to Buy scheme.

Currently only available to those who rent from councils, the policy allows them to buy the property a discounted price.

People can get up to 70% off the market value of the house, depending on how long they have lived there.

Mr Johnson insisted housing associations would be forced to build a new home for every property sold, however Labour said this is unrealistic.

The PM said he wanted to "finish the right-to-own reforms Margaret Thatcher began in the 1980s" by working in the coming months to free the millions "trapped" in their housing association homes.

  • To "turn more of Generation Rent into Generation Buy" with a review of the mortgage lending market

Mr Johnson told the crowd in Blackpool that he will launch an independent review of mortgages to support more first-time buyers into homeownership.

It will look into access to mortgage finance, with the aim of making it easier for this group by improving access to low-cost, low-deposit finance such as 95% mortgages.

One major aspect of the UK's housing crisis is that property prices are rocketing while stringent mortgage lending restrictions and high deposit requirements are hampering people's ability to get on the ladder.

More than 50% of renters could afford the monthly cost of a mortgage, according to the government, but various constraints mean only 6% could immediately access a typical first-time buyer mortgage.

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The PM said: “We have a ludicrous situation whereby plenty of younger people could afford to make monthly mortgage payments – they’re earning enough to cover astronomical rent bills – but the ever-spiralling price of a house or flat has so inflated deposit requirements that saving even just 10% is a wholly unrealistic proposition for them."

He added: “Reporting back this autumn [the review] will look at how we can give our nation of aspiring homeowners better access to low-deposit mortgages.”

Mr Johnson said he planned changes to the welfare system to "incentivise more hard-working people to save for a house deposit".

Under current rules, peoples' Universal Credit payments begin to taper when the claimant’s savings exceed £6,000, and it stops entirely when savings exceed £16,000.

But the government plans to exempt lifetime ISA savings from these rules, allowing people on benefits to save a little each month specifically for a deposit without impacting their Universal Credit payments.

The PM said it will help the 1.5 million people who are in work but also on housing benefit to put it towards a mortgage, rather than it automatically going directly to private landlords and housing associations.

Work and Pensions Secretary Thérèse Coffey said: “For too many people the aspiration to own their home has been taken away. By turning benefits to bricks, we are opening the door to home ownership for those on the lowest incomes.

“By removing barriers and allowing people on benefits to save into a Lifetime ISA, they will be incentivised to put aside a deposit to buy their home.

“And we are also giving people the choice to use their benefit towards their mortgage rather than on rent that pays a buy-to-let landlord.”