Comment: Help to Buy should help local people in London buy homes first

Written by on May 16, 2013 in Features, Opinions - 27 Comments

By Melody David

'Yuppies out' seen written on Foxtons, Brixton Road, picture by Kaye Wiggins

‘Yuppies out’ seen written on Foxtons, Brixton Road, picture by Kaye Wiggins

The chancellor’s new ‘Help to Buy’ scheme, offering prospective buyers up to 20% of the value of their new-build home and mortgage guarantees for those with small deposits, aims to make it easier for people to buy their own homes. But while these incentives are meant to help many first-time buyers get on the property ladder, available housing in places such as Brixton is rapidly being snapped up by investors who want to let, not live here, forcing house prices into stratospheric heights for local residents.

This year’s arrival of a Foxtons branch on Brixton Road signals the beginning and the end – the end of Brixton’s reputation as an undesirable area to live in and the beginning of a mass exodus of local Brixton residents. In fact it is now one of the most desirable places to live in the Capital; even developers Barrrats are building a gated block of apartments inappropriately named ‘Brixton Square’. Situated opposite the Somerleyton estate, one of the most deprived housing areas in Brixton, Barratts describes their properties as ‘great homes, but they also make fantastic buy to let investments’. And herein lies the problem; new build homes in Brixton are being sold at an alarming rate to those wishing to cash in on the lucrative buy-to-let market, instead of local people searching for their first time home. Gentrification of inner city areas such as Brixton has a direct effect for their long-standing working class residents. With an influx of young professionals renting in these areas, house prices have seen a dramatic increase with Brixton seeing the highest price increases in London in the period of 1999-2002. In 2012 survey, Lambeth was ranked as the 13th most expensive borough in London to live in.

Take Keisha Thompson, a 27 year-old woman, born and raised in Brixton. She has been saving for a deposit for nearly three years only to find that she is being priced out of her beloved hometown because houses are being sold for far more than she can afford. In 2012, the average price of a flat in Lambeth was £321, 639. She’s now looking into other areas such as Deptford, Woolwich and even as far as Kent in order to be able to afford the 5% deposit required for the scheme. ‘It’s sad that I can’t afford a house where I grew up because it’s become so unaffordable, why should I have to leave?’ Sadly this is the story of many of my long-standing Brixton peers searching for a home in the area they were raised. The majority of those on the property ladder are have moved to Greater London suburbs and the Home Counties.

Although the Help to Buy scheme isn’t available for those wishing to buy in order to let, its effectiveness would be felt more greatly if the government gave priority to long standing residents of inner city boroughs. Perhaps by offering a bigger loan percentage for local people and ensuring they are given priority over new residents they can avoid the impending decimation of the heritage in these areas.

Capping the number of buy-to-let investors in an area along with the opportunity to buy old builds would be welcome too. After all I didn’t grow up in Brixton dreaming of a shiny cookie cutter Barratts home, no offence. It was the terraced Victorian house on Holmewood Road with a green box hedge and window seats that I longed to buy, but now priced at a whopping £562,829 I might as well forget that dream.

Rising house prices, tighter social housing and benefit laws means an exodus of original residents; people who take a piece of Brixton’s culture with them when they leave. This will directly affect local businesses; changing the landscape of independent stores and restaurants that makes Brixton such a vibrant and diverse community. After all, who wants Brixton to become a stark new-build haven consumed by new residents milling around in chain stores and chain restaurants such as Foxtons and Starbucks? Certainly not me.

Melody David tweets at @MelodysNotebook 

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27 Comments on "Comment: Help to Buy should help local people in London buy homes first"

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  14. Sherela November 13, 2013 at 11:41 am · Reply

    What I worry about is that Local people will not get a chance to by,due to most earn a low wage. Also they may also earn to much to apply for any social Housing. And because local Authorises control allocation for Housing Associations housing. Those who traditional would go to Housing Associations for housing can’t.

    With the new intermediate rent scheme, this for those who can save for a large deposit, once this has been done they can’t apply or by the home they live in or anther home. However if you wage does not allow this then you are in a bad situation indeed.

    No one seem to have challenged Lambeths’ new social housing allocation scheme or look at the documentation that was use by Lambeth to come to the conclusion of their new Housing policy. I have tried to get the Orignal ( with finding and surveys conducted and by a private company) copy NOT lambeth edited copy with no luck.

  15. Romeo Pepito October 31, 2013 at 1:24 pm · Reply

    The chancellor’s new ‘Help to Buy’ scheme, offering prospective buyers up to 20% of the value of their new-build home and mortgage guarantees for those with small deposits, aims to make it easier for people to buy their own homes. But while these incentives are meant to help many first-time buyers get on the property ladder, available housing in places such as Brixton is rapidly being snapped up by investors who want to let, not live here, forcing house prices into stratospheric heights for local residents.Nice article

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  17. matthew June 21, 2013 at 9:03 pm · Reply

    The Barratts Brixton Square site was not a “brownfield” site. It was orignally a government owned site. Where the former labour exchange was.

    It was sold to a not for profit housing provider (Places for People) Given planning permission for development with a large amount of affordable housing. In fact given that permission as the Council thought that would be a good for Brixton.

    That scheme fell through. Barratts acquired the site. Proceeded to start building then went back to planning to water down the affordable housing. (See previous Brixton Blog).

    Marks comments are just the kind that people pushed out of London get annoyed by. Its not nimbyism.

    Brixton was a community of mixed incomes. Large Council estates plus private housing in Poets Corner for example.

    What does Mark mean by “hard working capitalist”? Lots of people work hard. Cleaners, Security staff, shop staff etc etc. Who does Mark think works at Iceland, Starbucks and H&M? The people who work there are not well paid. They work in Brixton. So where exactly are they supposed to live?

    Also the Brixton Village. Spare a thought for the those who serve you at the new eateries. Where are they supposed to live? Or the Ritzy cinema?

    No I am not a nimby. Those people who work hard to keep Brixton going are part of the Brixton community. Its not nimbyism to say they should be able to live here.

    It is not nimbys or those supposedly who do not like change that are the problem.

    It is people like Mark.

    The “luxury” of a tube line. What an offensive remark. Public transport is there for all Londoners.

    No its not “nimbyism”. Its people with the offensive view of Mark that wind people up.

  18. Mark June 13, 2013 at 9:01 am · Reply

    I think if you actually went out and asked 1000 Londoners which area was the ‘most desirable place to live in London’ as you put it, grubby Brixton would be fairly close to the bottom of the list.
    Also bashing Foxtons is hardly addressing the title of your comment. The fact is that the governments help to buy is mis conceived, because the bar is too high. It should be there to help first time buyers onto the market, but in fact there is no stipulation that buyers getting assistance need to be first time buyers, and the bar is set at values up to £600K so that does not really fit them either. All that will happens in a large number of cases, is that people with large proerties, will rent them out, raise some capiltal on them, and go and buy another one with this poorly judged package. Sounds a little like right to buy eh, and I am sure the reason it got through legislation is the fac the the not so stupid, nor short or a penny politicians could see an opportiunity there for themselves and their families.

  19. I live up Brixton hill May 17, 2013 at 3:46 pm · Reply

    As much as the story of people being unable to live in Brixton is worthy of sympathy, it is important to remember that cities are always, inevitably, in a state of flux and that the character of neighbourhoods like our own is always changing. It would be in some ways reassuring if the march of history could be brought to a halt and the old certainties preserved—the great conservative yearning. But it’s unrealistic. It cannot happen, especially in a place as unruly as London.

    So, big sympathy. The answer, though, does not lie in slagging off Foxtons or Barratt’s. The solution to present super-high rents and house prices is to build more homes in the south east. That’s what will bring prices down and mean people dont have to leave their home turf for new unknown places.

  20. James C May 17, 2013 at 3:21 pm · Reply

    Buy to let is a problem but the main driver of high rents and property prices is population growth.

    London is adding 110,000 people a year – but building only 20,000 homes.

    I am not sure we can build enough houses and flats to meet this level of demand but we could certainly try harder.

  21. IB May 17, 2013 at 1:45 pm · Reply

    The reaction of the first two comments here is fascinating, attacking the author of the piece for her ‘unreasonable’ aspiration to remain in her community rather than engaging with the issues at hand.

    What seems to been missed here is that Brixton is not a ‘desirable’ place to live. It is not the Amalfi Coast, 5th Avenue or a private island off the coast of Dubai. What it is is a collection of mixed housing developments around a suburban high street. Like most of London; indeed, like most of every city. Living in Brixton should not be an unreasonable dream.

    For the majority of people, in every generation from WW2 until about 1995, if they aspired to live where their parents did and had a steady job then they could.

    For our generation it is different. For most of us the prospect of even a small flat in a fairly uninspiring area many miles from the city center would require at best a very substantial, long term financial commitment (let’s say a £300k mortgage) which is so far removed from the sort of commitments faced by previous generations as to be almost laughable. Of course, you need to be in the rather fortunate position of possessing a household income of £75,000+ to get this sort of loan. As the MEAN average household income for a dual income couple with no children in London (perhaps the most affluent group bar the oligarchs) is £52,000 (and the MEDIAN household income in London as a whole is £33,000) this means it is only the very above averagely wealthy who could even consider buying this type property.

    Make no mistake, in the long term this is an utter disaster for London. Without a massive and sustained program of building by local authorities the very fabric of the city will be replaced with great tranches of privately owned, speculative, BTL housing filled with a restive population of the young and not so young, poor and more affluent, trying to save for a property, putting off starting a family, depressing the birthrate, not spending in the local economy and, eventually, moving away (or never coming here in the first place). And then what? An underpopulated capital city filled with streets of semi-occupied homes wanted only for their rental yield and resale value, with no one who wants to rent them and no one to buy them? Sounds pretty bleak to me.

  22. Rico May 17, 2013 at 12:00 pm · Reply

    What a great article Melody. I’m a Brixton tenant and I can only dream about becoming a property owner here. I especially like the fact that you’ve have positive suggestions about potential policy change. Keep up the good work.

  23. M May 17, 2013 at 11:39 am · Reply

    Buy-to-let is killing cities and massively holding back young people in this country.

    I moved to Brixton but I wouldn’t resent people who grew up in the area receiving more support to remain in the area.

    I moved to Brixton for what it is, not what it could become – the residents that go back generations are it’s soul.

    Houses need to be seen as homes again, not cash cows.

  24. Kray May 17, 2013 at 11:27 am · Reply

    What a ridiculous comment Mark. I sense no resentment to the ‘hard working capitalist’ in this post. The problem of unaffordable housing in London is one that needs to be addressed with great urgency. A successful career does not necessarily mean raking in the big bucks, are you suggesting lower paid workers such as nurses and teachers just haven’t bothered to find the right job? Half a million pounds for a house is out of reach for the majority of people in this country. You are right that no one has the ‘right’ to live anywhere. However for young Londoners (People actually born in this city) the opportunity to live in familiar surroundings around your friends and family shrinks yearly. I know some may say “tough luck” and “get over it” but these people clearly are not thinking about the bigger picture and the effect this has on community and individual spirit. The provision of affordable housing has to be safeguarding alongside gentrification to avoid all of London becoming a bland, beige, identikit mess.

    • Mark May 18, 2013 at 11:49 am · Reply

      I’m sorry Kray but I do feel this very obvious resentment in Brixton – having lived in South London for 17 years and in Brixton for 4 – there’s an obvious NIMBY movement in the area, we’ve seen the anti-thatcherism/foxtons stuff recently and blogs like this continually lack embracing the change going on (aided by local (labour) policies, NOT national I may add). My issue here is how completely mixed up the article is. Defend key workers to have affordable housing – agreed – but that is still within a reasonable commute of where they work. But to ‘couple’ this with a right to live in the area you grown up in is wrong. To make it worse the author complains of her own inability to buy a ‘dream house’ in Brixton. They are all totally unrelated issues. The cookie cutter housing Barratt is building adds housing stock to this area on a brownfield site and the Guinness Trust building are getting massive investment, The simple fact is Brixton has historically been underpriced between Dulwich, Kennington and Clapham and now it’s a more palatable area to live in for young people (certainly compared to when I moved to London) it is a re-balancing of the value of london house prices and that can only be expected for a zone 2 suburb. There is still plenty of affordable housing in South London you just might don’t have the luxury of being on top of a tube line.

  25. jk May 17, 2013 at 9:25 am · Reply

    This was all happening before Foxton’s turned up, and it is the reason that they did come to Brixton.

    Not being able to afford to live where you grew up is happening all over Britain, not just a Brixton problem. Get over it, nothing wrong with buying in Deptford or Woolwich.

  26. Mark May 16, 2013 at 10:31 pm · Reply

    Don’t like Starbucks but more than happy when H&M brought some life to a knackered high st – I suppose you’d like Sainsburys, Boots, Iceland, Costa, Nero, Specsavers, and M&S to move out too (they are chains aren’t they or are you just a selective hypocrite)?

    You also don’t get a given right to live where you grow up, you save and you compromise if you have to (dare I say find a successful career), you don’t just get your dream house because ‘you’re worth it’. For the record a nice Victorian house on Holmewood was built for exactly the type of hard, working, capitalist you now despise. There’s always Streatham, MItcham and Norwood if you don’t like change.

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