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Housing Bill a plaster on gaping wound

Sarah Davidson

May 26, 2015

Brokers said the Right to Buy scheme forcing housing associations to sell property to tenants at a discount would be highly unlikely to result in the new builds the government promises.

And they bemoaned the lack of priority given to aligning planning, land and building, which they said would make a much more significant difference to the supply of new homes.

Andrew Montlake, director of Coreco, said: “Given the fact that historically speaking the Right To Buy scheme, whilst successful for those participating, has not led to an increase or even a like-for-like replacement of social housing, I find it difficult to believe that this time will be any different and could further put strain on affordable housing.

“Again, there seems to be no long-term, carefully thought out strategy to make sure that land, planning and building are all aligned and controlled by a central, fixed-term minister at the very top table of government to deliver the number of housing starts we need. At best these policies amount to putting a plaster over a gaping wound.”

Mark Harris, chief executive of SPF Private Clients, agreed that Right to Buy would fail to deliver what the government was promising. He said: “While the government is setting much store by its Right to Build plans, these may turn out to be problematic as debt for this type of transaction is severely restricted.”

Andy Frankish, new homes director at Mortgage Advice Bureau, was less bellicose than Montlake but still gave the government’s housing bill proposals a luke-warm welcome.

He too said there was little likelihood they would deliver the new homes Britain needs. He said: “It’s good they are pushing forward so quickly but Right to Buy is controversial because it’s seen as selling off the family silver.

“The notion that more new homes will be built for each Right to Buy sold is in reality not going to happen – certainly on the ratios publicised – so I understand the frustrations.

“Right to Buy does tick the box for giving more opportunities for individuals to own their own homes but I’m not sure how housing associations will feel about this – they are after all private companies and might not want to sell off stock.”

Frankish revealed that, given the government had confirmed the proposals will be revealed formally in tomorrow’s Queen’s Speech, MAB was working exclusively with the Right to Buy Agency to ensure lenders “have the right products to help these customers”.

Frankish added: “We do need to build more affordable homes and the first-time buyer initiative is very welcome although as we have said before it needs lenders on board at launch and we still know very little about the scheme.”

He also said MAB fully supported the concept that the UK needs a more active self-build market and government efforts to bring the concept of custom build to the mainstream market.

He said: “Unfortunately there are a lot of sceptics in this sector and until they get a full understanding we aren’t going to be able to educate the customer as to the real benefits of considering custom build.”

Rob Thickett, mortgage policy adviser at the Building Societies Association, said they would be looking at the detailed content of the Housing Bill with “great interest”.

He added: “Government support for home ownership is to be welcomed, but increasing the supply of housing across all tenures is a big challenge. As the big five builders between them can meet about 30% of the 200,000 supply requirement only, it is essential that housing associations and local authorities can also build at scale.”

Earlier today communities secretary Greg Clark MP revealed the government will announce “landmark changes” to spread home ownership to millions in the Queen’s Speech tomorrow.

The government said its “ground-breaking” housing bill will include legislation to extend Right to Buy to 1.3 million housing association tenants and Right to Build, a policy designed to boost housebuilding.

Both policies were trailed as part of the Conservative’s manifesto pledges in the run up to May’s general election.

Clark said: “Our housing bill will offer over a million people a helping hand onto the housing ladder. That is what a government for working people is about – making sure people have the security they need to build a brighter future for them and their families.”

Housing minister Brandon Lewis said: “Schemes like Help to Buy are helping thousands of people who want to buy their own home – but we need to go further.

“Anyone who works hard and wants to get on the property ladder should have the opportunity to do so, which is why tomorrow’s Queen’s Speech will include measures so a million more people have the chance to do exactly that.”


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