Four General Election housing ideas…
Whether a General Election is held in May, November or in January one thing is guaranteed – we can expect to hear endless announcements of proposed new policies: most of which will never see the light of day.
I’m sure Brenda from Bristol is already putting her fingers in her ears.
If she’s not then she should steel herself for the usual fanfare of housing promises designed to help persuade people how one party or one leader has all the answers to solving the problems we face in our sector.
Earlier this month the latest one emerged when it was reported that Rishi Sunak is pushing for Jeremy Hunt to bring in measures that would allow first time buyers to access 99 percent mortgages.
The idea secured huge swathes of media coverage, appearing on the front of some newspapers.
Job done. Gold star for the PR team at Number 10.
Except there’s actually something dangerous going on here.
Dangling the carrot of 99 percent mortgages might be a potential vote-winner, and it might also appeal to some who are desperately struggling to get their foot on the ladder.
But it’s a perilous quick fix. It’s sticking plaster policy to try and help treat a sector which risks bleeding out if we don’t face up to the supply-side issues in the market.
What gets my vote, and what I’m also convinced would win wider support across the sector, are long term policies. And policies which look to deliver sustainable change. I’ve mentioned in this column before how keen I’d be to see stamp duty reductions for older homeowners looking to downsize.
It won’t solve all the problems, but it would free up tens of thousands of bedrooms. Plus, it’s worth noting that at any one time up to 8m older people are considering downsizing. The market is huge.
Another huge problem is the number of empty homes in our country. Right now there are 250,000 long-term empty homes. Owners need to be incentivised to bring them back to use where possible. If even 50% did so, that would provide a new home for up to 300,000 people.
I’d also like to see a party increase rent a room tax relief. This was last done in 2016 – and means an owner can earn up to £7500 tax-free. Since 2016 rents have increased 50% in many areas pushing many landlords into paying tax and discouraging others from renting rooms.
And finally seeing as this is the year for big ideas why not stand on a mantra of actually building entire new towns.
We need hundreds of thousands of new homes, only new towns will dent the appalling shortfall.
Yes, it’s a grand idea.
But housing is a big problem which needs big ideas – not politicians happy to just be big on delivering soundbites between now and polling day.