Politicians in row over HomeBuy sales figures

Housing minister Margaret Beckett has denied the Opposition\'s claims that no properties have been sold through the government\'s HomeBuy Direct scheme.

The scheme was announced last September as part of a £1bn housing package and offered first-time buyers earning less than £60,000 a chance to get on the housing ladder via shared equity home ownership.

It offers buyers a loan of up to 30% of the purchase price, which is interest-free after the first five years.

When owners come to sell, the loan is repaid by splitting the proceeds between the government and the developer.

The Budget last week allocated an additional £80m in funding towards the initiative.

But following the Budget, Conservative leader David Cameron launched a scathing attack on Prime Minister Gordon Brown and chancellor Alistair Darling.

Cameron quotes Beckett’s res- ponse to shadow housing minister Grant Shapps on the HomeBuy Direct scheme on March 24 2009, as recorded on Hansard, that “not a single sale had been made” since the scheme’s inception.

But Beckett now claims this is not the case, saying that although there are no solid figures she has met “at least one couple” that has participated in the scheme.

She says: “We started off with monies to put in a package with developers that could make 10,000 homes available and it is up to 19,000 the last time I looked. Developers tell us that they have registered demand from over 30,000 prospective buyers and sales are starting to filter through.

“I don’t know whether it is down to incompetence or malice, but it seems hard for the Opposition to get its facts right.”

Shapps stands by the claim that no sales have been made.

He says: “The government is making announcements that mean nothing. No-one has taken it up on the HomeBuy Direct scheme and yet it is pumping more taxpayer money into it.”

HomeBuy agents, firms that help buyers liaise with developers offering properties through HomeBuy Direct, say it has taken from September until the start of April to officially launch the scheme.

A spokeswoman for Moat, HomeBuy agent for Kent, Sussex and Essex, says: “We haven’t had any completions. Interest from prospective buyers has been incredible and we have 48 applications waiting for approval, but as the scheme has only been running for less than a month it is too early for completions.”

A spokeswoman for Tower Homes, HomeBuy agent for south London, says it too has not achieved any completions but has some pending sales with Barratt Homes.