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Canterbury council's £40,000 Help to Buy offer available for ten tenants only, authority admits

Controversial £40,000 cash gifts being offered to council tenants to vacate their homes and buy on the open market will be limited to just ten households, KentOnline can reveal.

Canterbury City Council has today admitted its ‘help to buy’ scheme is available on a first-come-first-served basis only.

Yesterday the authority sent a press release implying financial help would be there for all tenants who were eligible.

Aerial shot of Canterbury city centre. Picture: Simon Burchett.
Aerial shot of Canterbury city centre. Picture: Simon Burchett.

Those who had lived in their property for three years or more and were not behind with their rent could put their names in the hat, the council had said.

The news prompted a furious reaction online on behalf of hardworking taxpayers living in private rented accommodation who are struggling to get on the property ladder.

It has also prompted a surge in applications for the grants.

In a hasty attempt at damage limitation, the council now says the cash will not be available “willy-nilly”.

It has £200,000 set aside for the trial, which is to be match-funded by central government when ten eligible tenants are found.

Canterbury's Help to Move scheme is being run by East Kent Housing on behalf of the city council.

Spokesman Lucy Tuson said: “It’s a trial at this stage and not a case of us handing out cash willy-nilly.

“The grants are on offer on a first-come-first-served basis to those people that meet the criteria and ten tenants can benefit.

This funding is only available until 31 March 2016, so eligible tenants are encouraged to register their interest in the funding as soon as possible.

Council tenants have been sent information leaflets and application forms about the Help to Move Scheme and they can also apply online through the East Kent Housing website.

Cllr Neil Baker, chairman of Canterbury City Council’s communities committee, said: “This innovative scheme will help tenants who have long dreamed of owning their home to get on the property ladder.

"And because they move onto the open market, their council house or flat then becomes available for somebody else who really needs it.

“A £40,000 grant should be enough for a deposit and to cover legal and moving costs, so we are anticipating a lot of interest in the scheme."

But Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said the scheme could be perceived as unfair.

"This policy may well save money in the long run, counter-intuitive though that may seem, but we must ask whether it will be seen as unfair on those already renting in the private sector who can't afford a deposit themselves,” he said.

"With significant savings to be made, there will be those who say this isn't the time for such a generous offer.

"Either way, we're not attacking the real villain of the piece: the fact that our planning system isn't allowing enough houses to be built, leaving house prices artificially high."

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