Despite repeated cries by the Chancellor that “your hard work has paid off”, the Autumn Budget was underwhelming in its efforts to address the housing crisis. In brief, nothing new for renters, a mixed bag for landlords, and support for first-time buyers moving into shared ownership. Several extra pots of cash for housebuilding but well short of what’s needed and nothing radical in terms of reforming the land market to funnel the proceeds of development to local communities and build more council homes.
This week has been the Conservative Party’s conference, and their chance to match Labour’s pledges to abolish Section 21 and seed-fund renters’ unions.
There is a lot of worry among the party faithful that they are not doing enough about housing – the defining political issue of a generation. But with consultation responses on security being scrutinised by officials back in Whitehall, and Help to Buy facing negative attention, their options were narrow.
At the General Election in June, Labour won a majority of the votes of the under-40s. This was a wake-up call for the Conservative Party, many of whose members are now filled with a new urgency to address this cohort’s biggest concerns – including a rather large house-shaped one.
Their annual conference has duly been bursting with new housing policies, particularly for private renters. But while they are (for the most part) improvements, the proposals fail to address the urgency of the housing crisis.
Commissioned in Autumn 2016, the final report of the London Mayor’s investigation into the role of overseas investment in housing was published last week – but its findings can be read in very different ways.
Based on research by the LSE, its major conclusion and argument is that off-plan and pre-sales to the overseas market are integral to the current development model in London – and therefore also key to leveraging more affordable housing through section 106 agreements on those sites.
Well, the Housing White Paper was a massive disappointment. After an exciting glimpse on Sunday of moves to “incentivise” longer tenancies, on Tuesday it became clear that those incentives were existing government subsidies for companies building new homes. Number of beneficiaries: 80,322 (not counting the companies who would have offered longer tenancies anyway).
For the 4.3 million households in existing properties? The vague undertaking to “consider what more we can do to support families already renting privately, while encouraging continued investment in the sector.” Which gives little hope to people who don’t live with their family and a lot of hope to property speculators.
Commenting on the Housing White Paper, Dan Wilson Craw, Director of Generation Rent, said:
“Sajid Javid has the right analysis about the plight of renters, but his White Paper has failed to offer us anything of substance.
Tonight, BBC One’s Inside Out looks at the housing shortage and the desperate need to build more homes. This morning’s headlines quote the housing minister Brandon Lewis telling the programme that success for the government on housebuilding would be building 1 million more homes by the end of the Parliament.
‚Äî Alix Johnson (@Alix_Riverside) September 21, 2015
Although the main housing elements of today’s Queen’s Speech were reported in the week leading up to the announcement, it’s still very disappointing to have a housing bill outlined today that does nothing for the 11 million (and growing) private renters in this country.
Today’s Financial Times (registration required) reports that the Department for Communities and Local Government has blocked nearly 10,000 new homes from being built since the start of 2015.
What on earth is the government playing at?
House prices continue to outpace wages. Hot on the heels of Mark Carney’s interview with Sky News and David Cameron’s interview on this morning’s Today Programme, the Office for National Statistics published its House Price Index, which confirmed that there’s no let-up for first time buyers, who are facing double-digit inflation and stagnant wages.