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Host of ‘problem-solving’ policies put forward to tackle housing crisis

  • 04/05/2023
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Host of ‘problem-solving’ policies put forward to tackle housing crisis
Supporting new lenders to launch long-term fixed rates to cover the cost of energy efficiency retro-fits, hiking stamp duty on second homes and offering downsizing incentives are among the policies recommended in a housing market white paper.

The report, A vision for the UK housing market, focuses on the changes needed to improve the efficiency and quality of existing housing stock and achieve a realistic vision for UK housing.

Authors Anna Clare Harper and Emma Fletcher for the Whitehall Group, a forum of the Cambridge University Land Society, say that due to the lack of any clear, realistic vision for the housing market there are no workable government policies to tackle the supply issues and the challenge to improve the energy efficiency of the UK’s housing stock.

“The trouble is that genuinely problem-solving policies are often unpalatable,” write Harper and Fletcher. “The purpose of this paper is to begin to change the direction of conversation and, crucially, policy to begin to instigate real, positive, long-term change.”

Housing policies recommended for existing owner occupied homes include:

  • Facilitate entry of new lenders offering long-term fixed rate mortgages backed by institutional bonds to enable the release of scalable funding at affordable rates to cover the costs of retrofitting homes.
  • Waive stamp duty for downsizers reducing the size of their property by two bedrooms or more.
  • Relax planning rules for the creation of a ‘granny annex’ and conversions for multi-generational homes.
  • Relax listed building controls for energy saving retrofit works.
  • Simplify or remove VAT for energy saving materials used in refurbishment works on occupied private homes and works to add extra bedrooms.
  • Partly align council tax to a property’s EPC rating. The energy performance-linked element should rise incrementally towards 2050 (the UK’s target to achieve net-zero emissions) to incentivise investment into homes while raising revenue.
  • Require sellers to carry out a RICS building survey as part of their seller pack.
  • Increase stamp duty on second homes.

Dame Kate Barker, writing the foreword to the white paper, said: “This paper seeks to look right across the problems in housing and takes a holistic view of solutions, proposing policies without fear of vested interests.

“The issues of supply and distribution of space will be familiar to all those reflecting on housing problems, adding in quality and the increasingly urgent problem of energy efficiency gives this paper extra bite.

“The overriding proposal is for more joined-up and coherent housing policy. This should run wider than just not changing housing ministers frequently, but also engage HM Treasury and financial regulators. Only then could we achieve the goal of defining, and moving towards, housing market success.”

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