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Agents’ Verdict - We Need More Details in Labour Manifesto

There’s been a broadly warm response from much of the property industry to Labour’s manifesto, but a call for more detail to put flesh on the bones.

The manifesto contains no surprises when it comes to housing - a commitment to 1.5m new homes over five years, reform of the planning system, a movement towards building on ‘grey belt’ parts of the Green Belt, the permanent Mortgage Guarantee system aimed at first time buyers, and substantial reforms of the private rental sector. All were signalled well in advance by Sir Kier Starmer.

In response Tim Bannister, Rightmove’s property commentator, says: ‘We welcome policies and innovations which are trying to help more first-time buyers onto the ladder. Housebuilding needs to be accelerated, and creating a permanent mortgage guarantee scheme would at least give first-time buyers the certainty that the option will be there. However, we know from our own research that policies like the mortgage guarantee scheme have limitations, and are only able to help a very small pool of future first time buyers that fit specific requirements. One of the biggest barriers for first time buyers is being able to borrow enough from a lender, which a mortgage guarantee scheme doesn’t address.

“There needs to be more support for quicker and quality housebuilding, to alleviate some of the supply and demand pressures.  If the next government can create smoother planning processes to transform the delivery of new homes and produce more affordable housing, it could also help downsizers move to greener homes with lower running costs.”

Nathan Emerson, chief executive at Propertymark, comments: “Pledges to reform the planning system, commit to a brownfield-first approach, making the private rental sector more energy efficient, and a commitment to build 1.5 million new homes over the next parliamentary term are more than welcome. The planning process can be a huge obstacle in keeping pace with demand and change is desperately needed in order to serve an ever-growing population. Many buyers have had a tough time since the 2008 recession, and it is vital any future strategy includes a sustainable mix of affordable housing options for both buyers and renters.

“Propertymark would like to see more details from Labour about how they plan to meet their housing goals and ensure this is there is a firm and fair set of policies in place to serve all demographics. Any aspiration to reintroduce the Renters Reform Bill must come with full disclosure and a realistic timeline regarding the required court reform before the removal of Section 21 evictions should ever become a reality.”

And RICS chief executive Justin Young sees it this way: Labour is right in identifying planning reforms as a policy lever for boosting economic productivity in today’s manifesto, with numerous academic studies having found positive correlation between GDP growth and housebuilding completions. But the opportunities that arise from reform go well beyond housing. 

“Legislation that makes the delivery of any infrastructure is welcomed; red tape is currently acting as a significant barrier to growth. One such example can be found in Cambridge, where the failure to deliver a new water reservoir is threatening to stall the UK’s fast-growing, £94 billion-a-year life sciences industry, which has a critical mass in the city.

“As well as speeding up decision-making, planning reform is needed for our housebuilding sector to function efficiently, which is needed if build targets are to be met. Forty years ago, SME housebuilders were responsible for around 40% of housing delivery annually, but by 2024, that number is below 10 percent. To make matters worse, the number of SME housebuilders has decreased by 80% over the last 30 years. When taking these facts into account, it becomes very apparent why we continue to face a housing crisis and fall short of our housing targets. A simplification of the planning system – which is currently expensive to navigate and riddled with uncertainty – should help reverse this decline by delivering significant certainty.

“Policymakers must also address the skills shortage - otherwise the UK will be unable to deliver on its 300,000-homes-a-year target and £805 billion infrastructure pipeline. To overcome these challenges, RICS wants the incoming government, whoever that may be, to consider and implement workable policy solutions. We are calling for the creation of a cross-department skills taskforce, responsible for identifying gaps and opportunities in the workforce, as Labour has set out to do with their proposed Skills England body.” 

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