Jeremy Leaf: Improving planning will help housing delivery

Jake Carter

October 25, 2021

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Housing delivery must be improved by making the planning system work more efficiently and transparently, according to Jeremy Leaf, north London estate agent and a former RICS residential chairman.

Leaf said that this includes modernising Section 106 and CIL charges so that they do not become an obstacle.

He added that more supply, including local authority incentives to build affordable housing, could help to maintain activity while keeping prices and rents in check.

Leaf said: “More transactions are not just good news for the property market but for the country’s job and social mobility.

“Lack of stock is deterring activity which cannot be good for first-time buyers in particular, the lifeblood of the market.”

As well as this, Leaf said that additional tax breaks for ‘right-sizing’ and bringing empty housing back into use would be welcome to help address the shortage of affordable homes for the growing number of over-65s.

Further details of leasehold reform and zero ground rents for existing as well as brand new properties, not just as part of levelling up, would be another way of increasing supply and activity.

Leaf said: “Build-to-rent and buy-to-let provide a very useful contribution at all stages of the home moving journey so require continuing support.

“Good EPC ratings are still not a high enough priority for aspiring or existing homeowners but tax breaks might increase energy efficiency and retro-fitting supported by green mortgages and more generous green homes grants.

“However, it’s important to not reduce the value or saleability of older, unmodernised properties or discourage their improvement.”

The government’s £5,000 grant for heat pumps to replace old gas boilers is a good start, Leaf added, but this needs to be backed up by further information about installation, maintenance and insulation.

One size will not fit all as owners and landlords will spend a higher proportion of a property’s value on this work in different parts of the country.

Leaf said: “More details will hopefully be announced of the adequacy of the widely-mooted £5bn property developer tax and Building Safety Levy to fund safety measures and remove potentially-dangerous cladding from blocks of flats.

“A clear timetable for the introduction of a robust beneficial ownership register to enhance transparency and act as a deterrent to money laundering is a must too.”

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