Fri 08 Oct 2021
Earlier in October, this year’s Conservative Party conference was held in Manchester. In a year when property prices shot up, a new housing secretary arrived, the stamp duty holiday ended and the cladding and leasehold scandal remained a huge issue, it was interesting to see what the Conservative Party had to say about housing.
As part of the government’s levelling up agenda, Prime Minister Boris Johnson emphasised the importance of homeownership.
In his keynote speech at the Conservative Party Conference, he stated that housing was a key part of a £640 billion infrastructure investment programme.
“There is no happiness like taking a set of keys and knowing the place is yours, and that you can paint the front door whatever colour you like,” Johnson said, describing the decrease in homeownership as a “scandal”.
The Prime Minister also pledged that more homes would not be built on Greenfield sites; instead, he said there was a massive amount of brownfield potential where new houses could be situated.
There were no references to the forthcoming White Paper on rental reform by the PM and he instead made it clear that the Conservatives’ priority was on homeownership and not renting. He said homeownership meant people were happier, worked harder and were more productive.
Johnson promised: “We will enable more and more young people to share the dream of homeownership.”
The PM also said the government would undertake programmes of tree-planting and re-wilding.
Net Zero Challenge
Climate change minister Lord Callanan was a frequent face at the conference and appeared at half a dozen fringe events, with net-zero and decarbonisation prominent topics at the four-day event.
Housing association groups hosted The Housing Fringe and organisers placed an emphasis on decarbonisation.
There was unanimous agreement that getting housing to net zero needs to happen, and social housing would be an ideal place to start. There was, however, the problem of how to pay for it. Both the government and landlords cannot afford the £100 billion-plus bill.
Recently, the government announced how it would be meeting its net-zero targets and said they would be offering subsidies of £5,000 to landlords and other homeowners in England and Wales to replace old gas boilers with low-carbon heat pumps.
The heat pump initiative forms part of the government’s £3.9 billion plan to lower carbon emissions from heating homes and other buildings. Another measure being introduced is the increase of the minimum EPC level.
In the Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener document, the government have pledged to “set a path to all new heating appliances in homes and workplaces from 2035 being low carbon.”
In the government’s plans they have set out 2035 as a benchmark by when no new gas boilers will be sold and to fully decarbonise the power system.
Recent measures introduced by the government
A number of recent initiatives back up the Prime Minister’s claim that he is most focused on home ownership, with more new schemes designed to help first-time buyers purchase homes – although such schemes have continued to prove divisive.
In July 2020, the stamp duty holiday was introduced, which meant most buyers no longer had to pay the tax on their purchase. The tax break was brought in to help buyers and keep the property market stable during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The stamp duty holiday ended in September and Nationwide Building Society said the tax relief has helped to affect the timing of property sales and now first-time buyers are in a better position to buy a house after saving money during the lockdown.
The stamp duty holiday has also been criticised, however, and research has shown it hasn’t necessarily provided a boost for first-time buyers.
Another scheme introduced to help first-time buyers during the pandemic is the 95% mortgage guarantee scheme. The scheme began in April 2021 and ends on December 31 2022. Its objective is to give buyers a helping hand while giving lenders confidence with a government guarantee. The 95% mortgage scheme means buyers will only need a 5% deposit to buy a house.
Overall, the conference didn’t offer much that we didn’t already know, but made the government’s position clear on its housing goals and the increasing importance of greening the UK’s property stock.
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