Norwich first-time buyers could see deposits slashed in new housing plan

First-time buyers could see deposits needed for a new home slashed by 75pc in a bid to ease the housing crisis.

The shot in the arm to the property market, announced by the government yesterday, means some city house-hunters could have to raise an average of �7,200 instead of �29,000 to clamber onto the property ladder.

Under the plans, �400m will be injected into a Get Britain Building fund to help developers return to building sites where work has stopped.

Norwich estate agents and developers welcomed the news to help buyers and builders as they struggle in a housing market where building is at its lowest ebb since the second world war.

The scheme will help 100,000 buyers across the country but the two pronged plan to lift the market was dismissed as insufficient by the construction union UCATT and the Federation of Master Builders.

The city is crying out for more homes, with 9,169 households currently on Norwich City Council's housing waiting lists.

Despite the demand for new homes, just 4,148 have been built since 2008 under a planning blueprint called the Joint Core Strategy (JCS) put forward by the Greater Norwich Development Partnership (GNDP).

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The GNDP believes 37,000 new homes need to be built by 2026 in an area covering Norwich City Council, Broadland District Council and South Norfolk Council. This was the basis of a week-long Evening News investigation last week.

Of the 37,000 new homes proposed, 10,000 have been allocated within a 'growth triangle' to the north-east of the city.

The area runs along the fringes of Old Catton, Sprowston and Thorpe St Andrew and extends outwards to the village of Rackheath.

Campaign group Stop Norwich Urbanisation (Snub), which has delivered a petition to parliament containing 3,500 signatures opposing the 37,000 homes plan, said the government's announcement yesterday needed to be carefully put in the Norwich context.

Snub chairman Stephen Heard said new homes should be built where the jobs were, rather than on greenfield land in the north-east of Norwich.

But councils welcomed the government's new housing strategy, entitled Laying the Foundations.

Broadland District Council leader Andrew Proctor said: 'All our experience and research in recent years suggests that developers are nervous about building and that lenders are not confident about lending.

'This has resulted in a near stagnant housing market with fewer homes being built in the district than at any time since 2006.'

South Norfolk Council leader John Fuller said: 'We welcome it wholeheartedly. Unlike so many government proposals it can be implemented straight away because the [planning] permission is already there. The scheme is oven-ready.'

City estate agents were also optimistic that their fortunes could turn with the announcement.

Nick Eley, chairman of the Norwich and District Association of Estate Agents and partner at property firm Watsons, said: 'Anything that helps has got to be good news. The only disappointment is it is only being applied to new homes.'

And Jan Hytch, a partner at estate agents Arnolds and vice- president of the National Association of Estate Agents, said the plans would help buyers and builders, but would not bring much joy to those on the middle rungs of the property ladder.

Property developer Tony Abel said: 'I am delighted and thrilled that at long last they are going to help first-time buyers.

'Trying to get more than a five per cent deposit together is a big ask. It urgently needs to be addressed.'

But he said the �400m fund to help developers was not significant nationally.

The strategy also hopes to tackle the scourge of empty homes with �100m earmarked for schemes including cash rewards for councils, and plans to allow a council tax premium on homes that have been empty for more than two years.

Last year 12,838 homes were registered as empty in Norfolk and 1,948 of them were in Norwich.

Yet just one empty dwelling management order has been used by the city council in the last year.

Norwich South MP Simon Wright said: 'There are many families living in houses and flats in Norwich that are not big enough. People are languishing on waiting lists.'

And Lakenham councillor Victoria MacDonald, cabinet member for housing, said: 'I think there is an issue about using taxpayers' money to back up mortgages.

The issue for us is whether developers have the access to money to be able to start building where we need them to be building as a city.'