Party conference season shows housing remains a top priority

Michael Lloyd

October 10, 2018

The recent Conservative and Labour Party conferences highlighted that the housing market remains a top priority for the nation’s politicians.

At the Conservative Party conference, which took place in Birmingham between 30 September and 3 October the party announced plans to introduce a new ombudsman solely to oversee the new homes sector.

It said it intends to make sure that all developers belong to an ombudsman scheme to provide more protection for consumers.

Neil Cobbold, chief operating officer of PayProp UK, said: “It’s important that consumers purchasing new homes from developers have access to impartial redress, particularly considering the leasehold scandal that has plagued the sector in recent years.

“However, it remains to be seen how this new ombudsman fits in with the government’s previous plans to introduce a single ombudsman overseeing redress across the entire housing market.”

Theresa May pledged to increase stamp duty on property purchased by foreign buyers by up to 3%.

She said it “cannot be right” that it’s “as easy” for individuals not living in the UK to buy homes here as it is for domestic buyers.

Cobbold added: “This proposal is clearly designed to help property buyers living in the UK and will be welcomed by those trying to get on the housing ladder.

“However, one potential downside is that it could make property investment in the UK less appealing to overseas investors, something which could have a significant impact on the supply of private residential rental stock.”

Meanwhile, at the Labour Party conference, held between September 23 and 26 in Liverpool, the housing discussion focused heavily on the private rental sector.

Labour’s shadow housing minister, John Healey, pledged to scrap Section 21 evictions, which allow landlords to regain possession of their property for no specific reason.

He said that if the party were to come into power it would also introduce three-year tenancies, introduce rent controls in some cities and launch “renters’ unions” with the aim of putting “power in the hands of tenants”.

Cobbold said: “Labour’s proposals continue along a similar path as those it has put forward over the last few years, with a strong focus on the rental sector and helping private tenants.

“Research shows that Section 21 evictions are currently the most common way for a landlord to regain possession of their property, so there would need to be a feasible alternative introduced if the rental market were to function properly without Section 21.

“What’s more, introducing further restrictions on the private rental market could make operating conditions more difficult for landlords and letting agents, which could have significant unintended consequences for the rental market.”

Later this month, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond will deliver the Budget, which has been brought forward to accommodate Brexit negotiations.

Cobbold added: “We expect more details on some of the Conservative proposals to emerge in announcements.

“Further information would be welcome on outstanding housing plans outlined over the last year, and there’s always the potential for the odd property-related surprise, as we’ve seen in previous Budgets.”

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