What impact will the Government Housing White Paper have?
Whilst we welcome all centrally led initiatives to alleviate problems with the supply side of property, the devil is in the detail on all of these initiatives. Many ideas will only be effective if there are powers and enforcement to make them happen, and without proper foundation these ideas will never be built upon.
For me, the answer is to remove the politics. To enable a long term stable UK housing policy that is effective and equitable, the plan needs to be apolitical and run for more than just 3 years.
The current Government has done everything it can do to damage the PRS sector and the Housing Association/Social Housing sector over the last 3 years and yet it now professes to support these sectors – housing policy is a long-term game. To get Britain building again, we need a long-term commitment in terms of infrastructure, skills and materials.
Interestingly there is no mention of Stamp Duty in this review. This urgently needs to be reviewed and relaxed to get Britain moving again. To give this context, the amount of stamp duty collected on house sales in London alone rose by 11% in 2015-16 to reach £3.4bn, out of a total of £7.2 billion in 1.1m residential transactions in England.
With regard to a shift in aspiration from affordable buying to affordable renting and longer-term tenancies, the 1988 Housing Act already provides for 3-year tenancies and longer if required.
Being fairer to tenants is of course a noble aspiration but we also need to see Government be fair to home owners as well. As I stated in response to the Autumn Statement when the abolition of upfront lettings fees was first announced, we welcome transparency around fees and honesty in terms of cost vs margins and have witnessed some outrageous charges by others within the industry. It is essential that the interests of all parties – tenants, landlords and agents alike - are protected.
Finally, with subsidy institutional investment will not provide affordable private rental sector properties. Even if the developer’s margin was removed from the equation, this is unlikely to ensure affordable rents in the current market. Therefore, it is incumbent on the altruism of institutional investors to make a significant difference on the supply side. Ultimately without additional financial support, at a time when building and housing-related costs are increasing, the builders, developers and institutions within whom the government is placing its hopes to provide homes will not be able to assist.