Our chairman Nick Leeming comments on the Housing White Paper:
I don’t think I was the only one who experienced a sense of déjà vu yesterday. The content of the long-awaited Housing White Paper didn’t come as a shock to the property industry and that’s because we have heard many of these policies before. Frankly, it isn’t the catalyst for a housing revolution that it could have been, but it does show that this Government is taking the issue seriously. Whether this is too little too late will become clearer once the consultation period is over – and hopefully the final plans have some teeth!
The White Paper did however mark a shift in tone and the Government has now well and truly thrown in the towel on the UK as a nation of homeowners. The heady days of home ownership enjoyed by the baby boomers and Generation X are now behind us, to be replaced by an age of tenure neutrality. It was disappointing that the Government decided not to address stamp duty. It would have been refreshing to see, for example, a stamp duty holiday for first-time buyers to aid overall affordability or (even better) an easing across the board of stamp duty levels, which would have given the property market the boost it needs. High value property continues to suffer, which impacts fluidity at all levels.
Yet it is not all doom and gloom.
Prime Minister Theresa May’s Government has a real drive to build more homes, which we haven’t seen in a while, and I believe this drive will continue as we move further into the year. Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid, reminded us in his speech that an average 250,000 new homes need to be built each year to meet demand. In this vein it is positive to see further support for developers, in particular SMEs. It is vital that small and medium-sized housebuilders have the right tools to grow.
With backing from government SMEs are in the perfect position to get the vital support needed from stakeholders to build new homes quickly, efficiently and to the standard and design the local community want. Given their flexibility, SMEs are able to embrace new designs for homes that sensitively reflect their surroundings while also providing local communities with a platform to share their thoughts on the look and feel of new developments. I am confident this will help speed up planning and delivery to get much-needed new homes on the market.
Despite a move away from home ownership as an overriding focus, the Paper also brought some welcome news for first-time buyers. Launching in April, the Lifetime ISA will help young adults save for the future, while Help to Buy and Starter Homes schemes continue to be a great helping hand for those looking to get their foot on the property ladder. With so many first-time buyers unable to take that first step onto the property ladder, it is imperative that we continue to increase support if we are to start to overcome the housing crisis, but at the same time a major increase in the number of homes in the UK is vital.