First time house buyers in Scotland will receive up to £3,000 each to put towards their deposits if Labour is elected to the Scottish Parliament in May, the party will pledge today in its first manifesto announcement ahead of the Holyrood election.
Under the plans, Scots saving for their first home through the UK Government’s existing Help To Buy ISA scheme would be given an additional £3,000 on top of the £3,000 maximum bonus they are currently offered – effectively doubling the level of state financial support.
The extra cash would mean that an average couple each saving £100 a month towards their first home would be able to save for a £15,000 deposit within three years, Labour said.
Announcing the policy during a speech in Edinburgh today, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale will say that without “bold action” from Holyrood, a generation of young Scots may never be able to afford their own home and that “aspiration will simply pass them by”.
She will add: “We cannot tolerate an economy where people’s ambition is to just to survive, rather than for their family to thrive. We cannot let a whole generation miss out on the life their mothers and fathers expected as right. A whole generation cannot forever wait for it to be their turn.”
Labour sources told The Independent that successive Holyrood administrations had been inclined to leave key decisions on housing up to the UK Government and concentrate on “what things we could make free”. This new policy was designed to change that, they added.
The extra £103 million needed to fund the change would be found by cancelling the SNP’s planned 50 per cent cuts to Air Passenger Duty, a policy which would cost the Scottish Government £125m according to previous calculations.
Stressing the need for increasing the support for first time buyers, Labour highlighted official Scottish Government statistics which showed that under the SNP, the number of people aged 34 and under who have bought their own home with a mortgage has fallen by 15 per cent. Only 28 per cent of 16 to 34-year-olds in Scotland now own a mortgaged home – the lowest level since the Scottish Parliament was established in 1999.
“Existing interventions to help people buy their own home have been welcome but scarcely match the scale of the problem,” Ms Dugdale will say. “Something has to give or this generation may never catch up, may never recover what they lost out on. Aspiration will simply pass them by. So we will take bold action to begin to set that right. Not just a break from austerity for my generation, but a boost for aspiration.”
Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil said: "Labour seem to have missed the fact that as we emerge from the recession, first-time buyers are rising under the SNP Government, with the latest figures showing a 4% increase in the last quarter and a 16% increase in the last year.
"We know it can be challenging for young people to get on the housing ladder, that's why our reforms to taxation removed the tax on buying a house for the majority of first-time buyers. Since 2007 we have helped 20,000 people on to, or up, the property ladder through our successful shared equity schemes and our Help to Buy programme.”