Nearly half of the people who have received taxpayers’ money to help them buy a home under a government scheme did not need it, according to research.
About 4,000 households in England earning more than £100,000 annually are in the Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme.
Official figures to December 2016 show more than 20,000 households who are not first-time buyers have been helped.
The initiative, which started in April 2013, aims to make buying a home more affordable.
But research conducted for the government found that just over half of those who signed up to it said they could have afforded to buy without access to the scheme.
Help to Buy was launched by then Chancellor George Osborne to attempt to encourage more housebuilding.
The government offers a 20% equity loan to buyers of newly-built properties and 40% in London, on properties worth up to £600,000.
The buyers have to put down a 5% deposit and, when the property is sold, the government reclaims its loan.
This means if the value of the home goes up, the government will make a profit.
Similar schemes were set up and have now ended in Scotland and Wales.
worth of equity loans
£17.7bn total value of properties sold
£46,301 average equity loan
£229,608 average purchase price
81% were first time buyers
Labour’s shadow housing secretary John Healey said: “While the number of younger people who own a first home is in freefall, the number of government-backed affordable homes to buy has fallen by two-thirds since 2010 and badly targeted schemes like Help to Buy are not focused on those who most need a hand up.
“Labour would change that and make helping first-time buyers on ordinary incomes the priority for Help to Buy.”
Gavin Barwell, the housing and planning minister, said: “We’re committed to helping more people find a home of their own with the support of a range of low-cost home ownership products.
“Our Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme continues to make home ownership a reality for thousands of people, especially first-time buyers right across the country.”
The government said it had committed £8.6 billion for the Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme to allow it to run in England until 2021.