Property Industry Responds To Key Housing Policies In Conservative Manifesto

Rishi Sunak launched the Conservative party manifesto yesterday, with the prime minister pledging tax giveaways in a bid to revive their struggling general election campaign.

Speaking from Silverstone, the prime minister said he has a “clear and bold plan” for the country, promising to scrap national insurance for the self-employed and further tax cuts.

The manifesto also includes housing policies on stamp duty, capital gains tax, housebuilding, planning, the Renters (Reform) Bill, among other industry-related measures.

Industry reactions:

Dominic Agace, chief executive of Winkworth, commented: “A return to Help to Buy is to be welcome to give housebuilders the certainty to direct their developments to meet the needs of first time buyers, whilst also allowing those that are struggling to save a deposit but can meet affordability criteria to own their own home in the same way first time buyers who required smaller deposits in the past were able to. More development of first time buyers’ homes will also keep a lid on price rises going forward as supply meets the demand.

“Landlords being capital gains free to tenants seems to be a potentially disastrous move. as we could see it drive landlords to sell out and put significant pressure on renters as supply disappears with long term landlords cashing in. We’ve just seen the impact such measures can have in stirring mass action with the recent stamp duty holiday. This could have grave consequences for renters as we aren’t seeing many new BTL investors these days to replace the ones that leave. We do need a private rental sector if we want our cities to accommodate young professionals who are so important to the success of our cities which are ultimately drivers of UK GDP growth.”

Simon Gerrard, managing director of Martyn Gerrard Estate Agents, said: “These proposals by the Conservatives are devoid of imagination and emblematic of a party that is completely out of ideas.

“Last night the Prime Minister admitted that it has become harder for younger people to get onto the housing ladder. Despite this, his proposals today are rehashed policies that have so far failed to solve this crisis and will do nothing to solve the problem. The overwhelming cause of our children having nowhere to live is the total dearth of new supply coming onto market.

“Pledging to build 1.6 million new homes is hardly reassuring after their abysmal failure to meet their previous housebuilding targets. They are also doubling down on protecting the greenbelt, which desperately needs to be unlocked for development given the skyrocketing population growth in London. Meanwhile, there is nothing included to solve the nightmare of planning which has decimated building in this country.

“Reviving Help to Buy is a good idea – but it is ultimately meaningless if there are no homes to buy. Further, lowering the loan-to-value and purchase thresholds in London from £450,000 to £400,000 this time is perplexing given how much property prices have appreciated since the last scheme was launched. Offering watered-down, rehashed versions of previous policies is not going to solve the crisis we face.

“The same goes for the pledge to permanently scrap stamp duty for first-time buyers of properties up to £425,000. This isn’t a bad idea, but it simply doesn’t go far enough. The stamp duty system in the country isn’t fit for purpose by preventing transactions, jamming the market and disincentivising older people from downsizing homes. If the Government reformed stamp duty to encourage downsizers, then there would be more properties suitable for young families on the market, which are also desperately needed. The tax needs a complete revamp not more tinkering around the sides.

“Ultimately, we need serious political vision and genuinely radical reform if we are to fix housing in this country. The half-measures announced today won’t even slow the rate of deterioration.”

Nathan Emerson, CEO at Propertymark, commented: “It is encouraging to see the Conservatives making commitment to consumers via proposals to overhaul the threshold for when Stamp Duty is applicable. Propertymark is keen to see homeownership be a workable proposition and not an aspect that is ever out of reach.

“It’s also encouraging to see strategies for the fast-track regeneration of brownfield sites and urban areas. However, Propertymark awaits further clarity on how any ‘Help to Buy’ scheme would assist first-time buyers when taking their steps onto the housing ladder. Ultimately, we need a fully robust supply of new sustainable housing that is keeping pace with an ever-growing demand.

“Any renewed ambition to pick back up on the Renters (Reform) Bill must come with full disclosure and a workable timeline regarding vital court reform before aspects such as Section 21 evictions can sensibly be abolished.”

Karen Charles, executive director, Boyer (part of Leaders Romans Group), said: “The Conservative Party Manifesto on planning and housing is commendable, but all indications are that the constraints to housing delivery particularly houses outside less urban areas, by the apparent sole focus on delivering homes on brownfield sites in urban locations, will continue.”

Paul Rickard, MD, Pocket Living, said: “While we obviously welcome the commitment to re-introducing a Help to Buy scheme, increasing the stamp duty threshold to £425,000 for first-time buyers and delivering 1.6 million new homes, we were hoping for a suite of bolder and more ambitious policies to tackle the root cause of the housing crisis – the shortage of supply.

“Our planning system needs urgent intervention and resourcing, especially with regards to streamlining the process for unlocking small brownfield sites. Our SME housebuilders have never been fewer in number than they are today.

“Our ability to build new homes and the supporting infrastructure has never been under greater strain. The next government, whichever party it is comprised of, needs to work with the industry to urgently address these issues with a serious package of bold, radical and ambitious policies backed by the drive to see them through.”

Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, said: “Tenants who want to become homeowners should be supported to do so. Whilst incentivising landlords to sell to existing tenants has the potential to help, it will not reverse the damage to the rental market caused by tax hikes under recent Conservative governments.

“As the Institute for Fiscal Studies has warned, changes to mortgage interest relief and the level of stamp duty paid by landlords have led to higher rents and stifled the supply of homes across the private rental market. This comes at a time when the number of tenants enquiring about every available rental property has more than doubled compared with before the pandemic.”

Responding to the Conservative Party’s pledge to end section 21 repossessions, Beadle added: “Reform of the rental market should have taken place in the last Parliament. As we said then, a balance between security for tenants and policies which retain the confidence of responsible landlords is crucial if we are to deliver much-needed homes for rent.

“That balance can only be achieved by fixing a broken justice system so that tenants and landlords can enforce their rights when section 21 ends in a timely and effective way. As the Law Society has warned, reform risks being ‘in vain’ without investment in legal aid support and the courts.”

Alun Williams, partner at Spector Constant & Williams, remarked: “The announcement of a fast track planning system in the largest 20 cities, will ultimately come down to the detail. My initial perception however is that the Conservatives have adopted a sticking plaster approach to a system than needs major surgery.”

Rishi Sunak aims to woo voters with Thatcherite dream of home-owning democracy

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