Wednesday 23 November will be the first opportunity for Chancellor Philip Hammond to make clear his direction on fiscal policy for the country since he was appointed to replace George Osborne in July.
Osborne’s reign as Chancellor had a significant impact on the buy-to-let market in particular, as changes to mortgage interest relief and Stamp Duty taxation angered and bewildered the industry.
Inevitably, most commentators will be seeking some reassurance from Hammond on his chosen treatment of buy-to-let investors during the Autumn Statement, but other key considerations include how the government will tackle lack of supply, treatment of first-time buyers and escalating regulation being piled on the mortgage sector.
This week we’ve rounded up experts from the broker, lender and housebuilding sectors to tell us what they’d like to see revealed by Hammond next month.
Robert Sinclair, chief executive at the Association of Mortgage Intermediaries (AMI), says in the run up to the Autumn Statement broker hopes are pinned on a radical rethink of Stamp Duty Land Tax.
Peter Williams, executive director of the Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association (IMLA), welcomes the government’s revised approach to forms of tenure as part of its housing policy, but says a plan to tackle ongoing lack of supply must be outlined.
Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the Home Builders Federation, wants to see innovative ideas from the government on how to boost housing supply, including further assistance for SME builders and plans to plug the gap that Help to Buy will leave once it closes in 2021.
Robert Sinclair is chief executive at the Association of Mortgage Intermediaries (AMI)
The November Autumn Statement will be much anticipated for Brexit smoke signals when it arrives. For the mortgage broker community it is changes to Stamp Duty Land Tax that remains at the top of the wish list. The move away from the slab structure to a gradual tax approach has been the only gain in decades. It has now become damaging in a number of ways.
Firstly, the 5% payable above £250,000 property value and the 10% payable above £925,000 are significant drags on transaction levels in the UK. The previous government raised duty levels to a point where the amount payable has become a barrier to the desire to move up the housing ladder. People are not keen to give that much of their wealth away to the government just to move house. Accordingly, we are seeing more extensions and property improvements, rather than moving house. Rates need to be reduced to stimulate the property market.
It would also be beneficial if we saw a move of liability for this tax transferring from the purchaser to the seller. This move from a purchase to a sales tax would assist first-time buyers. Finally we would like to see stamp duty rollover relief where landlords are transferring confirmed buy-to-let properties in to a limited company from personal names.
In the absence of this change, the Chancellor must look again at the income tax relief changes that start to impact from April next year. The limitations which are phased in from next year are causing a fundamental change to the profitability of renting out quality properties. This runs counter to the need for a strong private rented sector and needs rescinding urgently.
IMLA welcomes the government’s recent restatement of housing policy towards a more balanced approach to tenure. Policymakers have favoured homeownership over renting and the buy-to-let sector in recent years, which has risked deterring popular investment opportunities and damaging the capacity to grow private renting in response to market demand. With that in mind, it would be positive to see the Chancellor announce that the potentially damaging changes to tax relief will be delayed or reversed. While IMLA supports boosting homeownership to meet the very obvious unmet demand, the tools policymakers have so far used to try and achieve this have been overly focused on constraining the rented sector.
The lack of housing supply has been a major issue for some time, and IMLA hopes the Chancellor will announce significant measures to combat this in the Autumn Statement. While it is imperative that the government builds more homes, IMLA would also welcome a more innovative approach to overcoming the lack of supply. In order to boost homeownership, policymakers would be wise to examine how they might support both first-time buyers buying and older homeowners downsizing by boosting liquidity in the housing market through further adjustments to Stamp Duty. In short, it would be encouraging to see the government manage the housing crisis with a joined-up approach that takes the needs of the whole market into account.
IMLA also hopes that the Chancellor addresses some of the challenges caused by ever-growing regulation of the mortgage market. Mortgage lenders are absolutely committed to supporting an increase in housing supply and greater homeownership, but they are being confronted by multiple layers of regulation which hinder both innovation and responding to under-served market niches. IMLA and the industry would therefore welcome a fully independent review of market regulation and its effect on lending.
Above all else, IMLA would welcome Philip Hammond outlining a sensible and flexible approach to housing policy in his debut Autumn Statement next month. It is imperative that policy is joined-up across different markets, and takes regional variations into account.
Stewart Baseley is executive chairman of the Home Builders Federation (HBF)
We are facing an acute housing crisis and the ‘new’ government has already demonstrated a commitment to increased housing provision. At the Conservative Party conference, ministers from Theresa May used their platform speeches to prioritise housing supply, and we saw a number of measures announced aimed at stimulating growth. The past three years have seen big increases in supply. These have been on the back of a strong economy and positive policies such as Help to Buy that are driving new-build sales and improvements to the overarching planning system.
Earlier this year, HBF on behalf of the major builders, signed a statement of intent with government to deliver further increases in supply. While Brexit led to a pause, the message from government is once again clear – they want more homes, built more quickly, by more builders.
The industry is committed to building more homes and is taking on and training more people and investing in land and its supply chain. Government needs to continue to develop positive policies to boost housing delivery and the Autumn Statement provides an opportunity. Help to Buy has been central to recent growth and we already need to be thinking about what happens in 2021 when the current scheme is due to close.
We are also keen for government to look at SDLT. The cumulative impact of recent changes made have had a severe impact at the top end of the market and for investors that is having a more widespread effect.
Further assistance for SME builders is also needed. Larger companies continue to report growth targets but getting smaller builders building again would boost numbers further. If government gets it right, as well as providing desperately needed homes, housebuilding could also be an even bigger driver of the economy post-Brexit.