Industry lukewarm on ‘housing light’ Autumn Statement
While there were changes to planning reform, national insurance and housing benefit, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Statement seems to have left the property industry wanting more.
On the planning side councils will be able to recoup the cost of planning applications if they stay on deadline, while homeowners will be able to easily split their homes into two flats.
The planning announcements drew some praise, as Andy Sommerville, director at Search Acumen, said: “There are some positive takeaways to be had from the Chancellor’s statement today, with more economic stability on the horizon than there has been for the last few years.
“We hope to see some of his announcements lead to meaningful changes that can benefit the property industry, encouraging growth and investment as the macro-economic landscape improves.”
It’s thought that the Chancellor is holding back on some measures to be announced in March’s Budget however.
Elliot Vure, corporate sales director at property lender Together, said: “Having been tempted by mouthwatering mortgage morsels in headlines all week, today failed to deliver. It is vital proper government support is given to open doors in what’s still a tough economic environment.”
Jeremy Leaf, north London estate agent and a former RICS residential chairman, wanted more measures designed to encourage affordable rental supply.
He said: “We would have liked to have seen more direct help to encourage landlords in particular to stay invested and add to their portfolios, bearing in mind so many are providing accommodation for tenants on housing benefit on behalf of local authorities.
“Affordable accommodation remains in short supply, particularly affordable rental accommodation and there are no signs that this will change any time soon.”
A spokeswoman for Wavensmere Homes was disappointed there was no alteration to stamp duty.
She said: “It was disheartening to see the current stamp duty thresholds unchanged, as the only real help first time buyers currently have is the stamp duty exemption for homes valued up to £425,000. First time buyers deserve far more assistance that this to access the housing ladder.”
Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, also felt first-time buyers needed more support.
He said: “The Autumn Statement really was a missed opportunity, particularly as far as first-time buyers are concerned.
“The Chancellor could have made more effort to help those struggling to get on the ladder, making it easier and cheaper to buy, perhaps via stamp duty reform.
“There has been no replacement for Help to Buy and while we welcome the extension of the Mortgage Guarantee Scheme by 18 months, this only helps a relatively small proportion of movers because loans are restricted to four and a half times income and not all lenders participate.”
Meanwhile Maria Harris, chair of the Open Property Data Association, called for more digitalisation of the housebuying process.
She said: “There was little in the Autumn Statement that will help the housing market to operate more smoothly or speed up transactions.
“The Chancellor stated that the UK’s tech sector has grown to become the third largest in the world, this needs to filter through urgently into the tech and digitisation of the home buying and selling process where all key data is held centrally and can be accessed easily and quickly by every relevant party. These changes can’t come soon enough.”