Difficulties facing first-time buyers have grown into a significant social problem threatening the well-being of local communities nationwide, according to research carried out by the New Homes Marketing Board.

Nearly 90% of the population, as sampled by YouGov, believe property prices are a major problem for first-time buyers in their areas ? and that the problem is getting worse everywhere.

The findings are a clear indication that the public recognises the importance of first-time buyers to the local and national economies and how badly they are suffering during the current housing shortage, says New Homes Marketing Board chairman David Pretty, CBE.

Pretty suggests central Government and local authorities speed up the release of redundant and surplus land suitable for housing and introduce a ‘fast-track’ planning application process for first-time buyer homes. Once housing output is on the up, he would like to see the elimination of Stamp Duty – or at least raise the threshold to £250,000 – as suggested by the Conservatives, and disappointingly, not adopted by Chancellor Alistair Darling in his pre-Budget report. Other financial incentives could be introduced for first-time buyers only, another idea applauded by those who took part in the poll.

‘The survey shows the housing shortage is a reality felt right across the country in virtually all social and age groups. What’s more, when we asked our sample who should take most responsibility for trying to solve problems facing first-time buyers, more than half ? 54% – said it should be jointly tackled by the public and private sectors with Government, local councils, house builders and housing associations working together,’ says Mr Pretty.

But while the vast majority questioned see the plight of first-timers as a serious local issue, ‘only around half surveyed said they would support new home building in their immediate neighbourhood,’ Mr Pretty adds.