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Cable in house price warning

Homeowners have too much of a "weakness" for rising house prices, a think tank has warned after Vince Cable suggested buying a property was becoming increasingly unaffordable for many on even middle incomes.

VINCE CABLE: Said property has become much more unaffordable
VINCE CABLE: Said property has become much more unaffordable

The Liberal Democrat Business Secretary also disagreed with David Cameron and much of the UK Government cabinet by saying that price hikes were not necessarily good.

For young families trying to get on the housing ladder, the rapid rises seen in recent months are "an extremely bad thing," he said.

For older people who have paid off their mortgage and whose children have perhaps flown the nest, the rises are sometimes only an increase in "paper" wealth, he suggested.

Earlier this week, a new report showed the average house price in Scotland has risen by 7.6% in the first quarter of 2014, compared to the same period last year.

The last three months represent the strongest quarter since the end of 2007, before the financial crash a year later.

The Scottish Property Federation (SPF) said the rises were in part because of the government-sponsored Help to Buy scheme, which subsidises home purchases.

The measure was designed to restart the housing market in many parts of the country, after six years of stagnation.

But experts have warned it could trigger another dangerous housing bubble. Part of the problem is that not enough homes are being built across the UK to satisfy demand, Mr Cable warned.

The Liberal Democrat Cabinet minister said: "The fundamental problem is a chronic imbalance between supply and demand.

"A recovering mortgage market is just fuelling demand again."

He added: "A family on average income is nowhere near able to afford a house at the average price.

"Property has become much more unaffordable for people on middle incomes."

His criticism of rising house prices comes as Conservative housing minister Kris Hopkins suggested increasing property values were a good thing.

"I do not agree with Kris Hopkins that rising house prices are a good thing," he said.

Daniel Bentley, from think tank Civitas, warned there is a "collective weakness among voters for seeing their properties grow in value.

He said: "Hopefully this will recede as the number of people priced out of the market continues to rise.

"But until it does, politicians will never build enough homes to level out prices, and the economy will remain beholden to a rollercoaster housing market."

Mr Cable's comments are at odds with the Chancellor George Osborne, who has previously rejected warnings by the Business Secretary over Help to Buy.

But Mr Osborne admitted to MPs this week the scheme would be kept under strict observation, although he rejected suggestions that it was creating a bubble.

Both the UK and Scottish governments run similar projects under the Help To Buy umbrella.

Homebuyers are given guarantees on mortgage deposits, as long as they can raise a small proportion of the money themselves.

The Tories have argued the measure is necessary to help families who otherwise have been unable to buy their own home. They insist the scheme is needed because banks became more strict about lending mortgages in the wake of the financial crash.

The latest statistics from the Nationwide Building Society show Aberdeen saw the highest increase in Scotland, with its rise thought to be at 12%.

Renfrewshire and Inverclyde recorded a 10% increase, while Glasgow saw a rise of 9%.

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