Comment: Politicians need to get moving

Property policies have not had required effect, so it’s time for new ideas

When it comes to the UK housing market, politicians’ fingerprints are all over it. Even if it appears the only game in town right now is Brexit, there is work going on behind the scenes that means intervention is ever-present.

For instance, there are currently discussions about changes to the home-buying process, with the government looking at the introduction of reservation agreements (as used in the new build sector) to deliver greater certainty and cut down on transaction fall-throughs.

This is just one strand of a political narrative which, in the last few years alone, has resulted in countless schemes, stamp duty amends and tax relief changes, not forgetting the constant regulatory intervention.

Ironically, however, intervention in one area of the market is unlikely – that is regarding the changes that have impacted landlords so enormously in recent years.

I am hearing there is a growing belief in political circles that they went too far in terms of ratcheting up stamp duty and cutting back on mortgage interest tax relief, but the environment makes it too hard to repeal. Sympathy for landlords? You have got to be joking.

Yet, if we were being cold and calculating about this, you would probably look at reworking both these things, because the impact on the purchase market has been severe and it has not really done what it set out to do: move homes from the private rental sector into the hands of first-time buyers, albeit some might point to ‘amateur landlords’ being more inclined to sell.

Nor has it resulted in the much-anticipated entry of corporate landlords to fill any gap left by the amateurs (with perhaps one notable exception – L&G).

This means the private rental sector remains rather dysfunctional and in terms of any real, joined-up housing strategy, we are still waiting.

Will a Brexit deal result in our political community being able to move on and develop a rounded view on what is required for UK housing? That remains to be seen.

What I do know is that there has been a spike in births since 2000 and these individuals will require a place to live. The longer we leave decisions on this, the worse the problem will get.

Bob Young is chief executive of Fleet Mortgages

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