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U.K. Homebuilders Gain on Osborne’s New Program

A worker stands near apartments under construction in London. Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg
A worker stands near apartments under construction in London. Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

March 20 (Bloomberg) -- U.K. homebuilders rose to the highest in almost five years after Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne pledged 3.5 billion pounds ($5.3 billion) to buyers of newly built homes.

Osborne in his annual budget report to lawmakers in London today said the government will provide an equity loan of as much as 20 percent of the value of a newly built home worth 600,000 pounds or less. The “Help to Buy” program broadens an existing policy beyond first-time buyers and will begin next month.

The Bloomberg EMEA Homebuilders Index gained 3.7 percent at the 4:30 p.m. close of trading in London, its highest since May 2008. Gains were led by Barratt Developments Plc, the U.K.’s largest homebuilder by volume, which rose 6.6 percent to 255.6 pence. Persimmon Plc, the U.K.’s largest homebuilder by market value, increased 4 percent. Crest Nicholson Holdings Plc was up as much as 4.4 percent, the most since its initial public offering last month.

“House building has a key role to play in the economic recovery,” Persimmon Chief Executive Officer Mike Farley said by e-mail. “Help to Buy will be particularly helpful to capital constrained small- and medium-sized house builders, providing a boost to sales and build rates, which should be good news for jobs and economic growth.”

Prime Minister David Cameron is using homebuilding to help stimulate the economy, which is at risk of entering an unprecedented triple-dip recession. The Bank of England’s Funding for Lending Scheme has eased conditions in the home-loan market and the government has also tried to bolster the housing industry by simplifying planning laws.

NewBuy Policy

The U.K. government sought to assist 100,000 new home purchases under its NewBuy policy, where the state and the homebuilder split some of the losses they would incur in a default. Around 3,000 potential buyers reserved a home using the program since it was introduced last March, the Home Builders Federation said on Jan. 24.

The latest plan “opens it up to more people and takes away the requirement for developers to take an equity stake,” Steve Turner, a spokesman for the London-based federation, said by telephone. “This reduces the burden on developers’ balance sheets and the funds made available by this can be reinvested into more sites and more land for more homes.”

The government will also offer guarantees to support 130 billion pounds of mortgages for existing and newly built homes, according to the budget announcement. The program starts in 2014 and will run for three years. Lenders can purchase a state guarantee that compensates part of their losses in the event of foreclosure, though the government will charge a fee for the assurance.

“Help to Buy is a dramatic intervention to get our housing market moving,” Osborne said in the House of Commons. “For newly built housing, government will put up a fifth of the cost, and for anyone who can afford a mortgage but can’t afford a big deposit, our mortgage guarantee will help you buy your own home.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Spillane in London at cspillane3@bloomberg.net; Patrick Gower in London at pgower@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew Blackman at ablackman@bloomberg.net

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