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Housing White Paper forecasts: Tenure neutrality and new construction on way

  • 06/02/2017
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Housing White Paper forecasts: Tenure neutrality and new construction on way
Housing minister Gavin Barwell has confirmed making renting cheaper and more secure will feature squarely in the Housing White Paper expected to be published tomorrow. 

Talking on the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme, Barwell said the government wanted to encourage greater investment in building homes for affordable rent, which must be at least 20% below market rate to qualify.

He discussed a ‘change of tone’ for the government’s housing strategy towards one which addressed the unaffordable costs facing tenants. However, he added the government remained committed to ensuring the dream of homeownership became a reality for those who wanted it.

Expected amendments to planning rules, will be intended to allow more homes to be built for rent. Developers will be encouraged to offer cheaper rents instead of fulfiling some affordable home obligations. Increasing the length of tenancy agreements is also on the government’s list of improvements to be made to the private rental sector.

What the market says

Described by Philip Hammond, in his Autumn Statement, as the largest affordable house building programme seen since the 1970s, here’s what else the market predicts will be delivered in the Housing White Paper.

Council of Mortgage Lenders director-general Paul Smee expects the government to focus on new methods of construction as a way of delivering new-build homes. However, speaking at the Westminster Business Forum last week, Smee said more work needed to be done between the constructors and the mortgage industry to find out what these products entailed.

Mick McAteer, co-founder and co-director of The Financial Inclusion Centre, also speaking at the forum said the White Paper needed three elements to it, if it was to stand a chance of solving the macro-economic problems of the housing market.

He said: “We need a White Paper which controls,constrains and influences the behaviour of builders and lenders. It needs to bring in new measures to protect renters because there are now more people renting than people with a mortgage. It also needs to introduce measures to fund the building of social housing.”

Peter Williams, executive director, Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association, in his latest blog for Mortgage Solutions said that it was vital the government continued to support all tenure types, which included buy to let. He said expected to see a more ‘tenure neutral’ stance from the government than its predecessors had shown, adding ‘there is after all no single tenure or policy solution to the current housing crisis’.

Smee agreed with this prediction and told the forum audience that he expected Theresa May’s shift away from the previous government’s attitude of ‘housing ownership good and tenancy bad’ to be confirmed in the White Paper.

“[Tenure neutrality] ought to work its way through by there being a pause on change for the buy-to-let sector as ministers work out what neutrality means,” he said. “Under any conceivable market forecast, landlords and a rental sector are going to play an important part in the housing market in the near to medium term and policy markets need to reflect on that.”

Jeremy Blackburn, head of policy at the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, said the government must look to overturn the punitive 3% Stamp Duty reforms that “turned so many smaller landlords away from a crucial sector for our country”. However Smee said he does not see the government back tracking on that policy as it is generates high levels of revenue in taxes.

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