The Help to Buy scheme was supposed to help me buy my first home

A couple who were in the process of buying their first flat under the Help to Buy scheme will soon be made homeless as delays to the build of the property mean they will miss the Government’s deadline for the loan.

Arziom Cristofaro, 30, and his partner Claudio, 34, first had an offer accepted on a flat in Wembley, north west London, in April last year, which they are purchasing with the help of a Help to Buy Equity Loan.

However, it now looks like they will miss out on the opportunity to buy their home due to Government deadlines with the Help to Buy scheme, which house builders have labelled “arbitrary”.

In the meantime, they have also been evicted from their rented property, meaning they face having nowhere to live from next month.

Launched by the Government in 2013, the Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme provides loans of up to 20 per cent (40 per cent in London) of a property’s value to first-time buyers to help them get on the housing ladder.

The scheme closed for applications on 31 October 2022 and buyers must legally complete by the end of March this year in order to remain eligible.

However, first time buyers across the country have recently become aware of a lesser known rule that stated all homes being purchased with a Help to Buy Equity Loan must have finished construction by December 2022.

Last month the Government announced that it would extend this deadline until January 2023 after pleas from developers and hundreds of first time buyers who risked losing out on their home due to the deadline.

However, some buyers, like Mr Cristofaro, have been informed that the construction of their building will still not be finished by the end of this month.

Mr Cristofaro’s flat was originally scheduled to complete by September last year, however this date was then delayed to October and then again to December.

At the start of January, the couple were informed that the completion would be delayed again and that they would therefore no longer qualify for a Help to Buy loan, meaning they could no longer afford the property.

“On the 9th of January it was the first time that my solicitor or the builder told me there will be a high risk they will not have the right document signed up that the building work is OK and that unfortunately your property will not be eligible for a Help to Buy loan anymore,” he told i.

The couple have also been served an eviction notice on the home they have been renting for the past ten years as the landlord wants to sell it, meaning from February they will have nowhere to live.

Mr Cristofaro said it is “impossible” to find somewhere to rent in London right now.

Rents have risen to record highs across the country in recent months, in part due to a shortage of supply. Data released by the property portal Zoopla last month showed rents in London increased by 17 per cent or £273 per month in the year up to October 2022.

“I asked friends if maybe I could rent for a while in their room. We need time to understand it all, but basically we’re going to be homeless so I have to find a solution,” Mr Cristofaro said.

The couple have contacted the Government to explain their circumstance and ask for an extension, but have been told an extension to the deadline is not possible.

“We asked the Government if they could do an extension. If we could explain the particular situation…what is the purpose of Help to Buy if I’m going to become homeless?” he said.

“The situation the Government is putting us in is completely unreasonable. It’s absolutely awful.”

More on Housing

Housebuilders have argued that some Help to Buy properties have been delayed due to ongoing supply-chain issues that have been plaguing the construction industry since the pandemic and have been further exacerbated by the war in Ukraine.

“This situation is beyond our control. It’s not because people haven’t done the right job or people are lazy or something. We are in very particular circumstances and they should understand that. What is the point in doing this if you are not going to be more flexible in this kind of situation?” Mr Cristofaro added.

A Department for Levelling-Up, Housing and Communities spokesperson said: “Supporting aspiring homeowners is a Government priority. We have extended the Help to Buy deadline to make sure people do not lose out because of delays to developers completing their homes. Housebuilders must ensure they finish building work on all properties by 31 January. The legal completion deadline remains 31 March.”

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