Despite this, everyday we see new signs of improvement across the market.
As restrictions lift further and businesses receive a clearer plan for receiving much needed support from the government in the coming months, there are reasons to be optimistic.
We have seen an influx of lenders returning to the specialist lending market over the last couple of weeks.
With valuers returning, building sites reopening as more projects recommence work and access to properties being reinstated.
It is certainly encouraging to see the housing market as a whole kicking back into gear.
With these green shoots came an increasing approach to relaxing loan to values (LTVs) and readjusting risk appetite where appropriate for more lending products and use cases.
Planning changes support SMEs
Last week Boris Johnson announced what he hailed as ‘the most radical reforms to our planning system since the Second World War’ in a statement setting out the government’s plan for nationwide economic recovery.
The industry has long awaited commitment from the government to effect a paradigm shift in the planning system, and this support from the prime minister comes at a pivotal time for the housing market that has endured an undoubtedly turbulent couple of months.
This dialogue will be particularly well received by SME developers who have found the planning process cumbersome and relatively more expensive in time and effort for smaller projects.
So the intent to streamline the process and extend permitted development rights for commercial to residential conversions is very welcome.
Important steps towards stamp duty reform
What’s more, the government is not stopping at planning.
Stamp duty reform is something that the majority of the industry has been united in wanting, even if the exact strategy surrounding that reform varies sharply depending on who you are talking to.
As it stands, stamp duty not only provides a barrier for increasing transaction volumes in the market, but remains a disincentive for older homeowners considering downsizing, which simply reduces the amount of suitable available stock for those second- and third-time purchasers and clogs up the entire market.
In 2018 we saw steps in the right direction with the removal of stamp duty for first-time buyers on purchases of up to £300,000 and now the chancellor’s temporary but immediate abolishment of stamp duty on homes up to £500,000 until March 2021.
This stamp duty holiday will provide a welcome relief for buyers in the current climate, and it’s a smart legislative decision to inject mobility into the housing market and provide a much needed remedy to the ‘wait and see’ approach that many buyers may have opted due to recent market uncertainty.
Each of these initiatives is an encouraging step towards a more optimistic future for the industry; and importantly a clear message that this government is well aware of the issues faced by the housing market in light of the Covid-19 crisis, and is prioritising taking material action to tackle them.