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Agents highlight property priorities for the new Prime Minister

From housebuilding to planning laws and stamp duty reform, agents and property professionals were ready with plenty of suggestions for Liz Truss after she was officially named the leader of the Conservative Party and United Kingdom’s new Prime Minister yesterday.

Housing played a small part in the leadership contest, with Truss and her rival Rishi Sunak focusing on taxes and the cost of living crisis.

But beyond appointing yet another Housing Secretary and housing minister for her Cabinet, there is plenty more change that agents would like to see.


Nathan Emerson, chief executive of agency trade body Propertymark, congratulated Truss and urged her to work with property professionals to find solutions to major issues facing the sector. 

He said: “The spiralling cost of household gas and electricity bills has put the energy efficiency of our existing housing stock into sharp focus. With unilateral EPC rating targets looming, there is currently no long-term plan that sets out how they will be achieved. 

“Propertymark is a strong advocate of making homes more energy efficient as the best solution to bringing down bills. However, it is unlikely that significant progress can be made until Ministers better understand the current housing stock and then apply realistic targets based on properties' individual characteristics with sustained funding for homeowners."

On housing supply, Emerson added: “It's no surprise that boosting housing supply topped our poll. Our latest market insight reports show for every rental property available there are an average of 11 applicants, while home buyers are outnumbering sellers by seven to one. 

“This is creating affordability issues, particularly in the private rented sector.

“We believe that gap can be closed through measures that bring the many tens of thousands of long-term empty properties back and the introduction of focussed targets for new homes that are based on an identified need for each tenure across the country.”

The National Association of Property Buyers (NAPB) said more stability needs to be brought to the market to avert a downturn and support the soaring numbers of people unable to buy or rent a property.

Its spokesman Jonathan Rolande said: “We must see the supply of property increase by empowering smaller builders with easier routes to get planning.

“Stamp duty is archaic and needs a re-think which would increase fairness and free up off market property – give pensioners a zero band when they move downmarket for example.

“The government should also look at increasing tax breaks for companies opening in areas where cheap housing is plentiful to take some strain off the south east. The new PM must be bold. 

“The property market underpins everything we take for granted in this country and it needs help after years of imbalance, short-term ideas and mis-placed billions in subsidies. It needs radical change and that will take radical thinking. I hope our new Prime Minister has the vision to do this but time will tell.”

Rolande said the energy market crisis should be the first priority, but added: “Once that is stabilised, I hope that there will be no more subsidies that inflate prices – Help to Buy has, after all, helped huge house building firms to boost their profits with hard-earned tax payer money.”

Tom Bill, head of UK residential research for Knight Frank, added that Truss must strike a balance between populism and pragmatism.

He said: “Conservative governments like creating homeowners because they believe they are more likely to vote Tory. 

“We should therefore expect announcements that are designed to address the very real affordability problems people face, especially first-time buyers. The question is what happens once the headlines fade.
“Help to Buy, the mortgage market review and various stamp duty changes have all left their mark, among other initiatives. But attempting to fundamentally alter a market that is driven by the laws of supply and demand rather than controlled by the state is ultimately futile.
“A good start for the new government would be to acknowledge this fact and instead take a more targeted and low-key approach. How the headline writers and ‘red wall’ voters would react to that is another matter.”

Looking forward to the appointment of a new Housing Minister and Secretary of State, Dominic Agace, chief executive of Winkworth, said: "I hope the Secretary of State can create a long-term plan for housing and commit to longevity in the role - in the same way Ben Wallace has in defence. 

“Only then can change actually be delivered.  Property is a long-term challenge that needs a consistent approach, rather than new policy announcements every two years by a new minister.  

“We need new housing most of all and measures to tackle the barriers that prevent it being delivered - and that can't be done overnight.  

“We don't need short-termist giveaways such as Help to Buy or stamp duty holidays. Instead, we need a longer-term reduction in transaction costs to ensure that the flow of the property market, from first time buyer to family house owner and then downsizer, is working.  We need to tackle the bottlenecks created by excessive taxation, which is currently stopping this happening."

 Nick Leeming, chairman of Jackson-Stops, expressed hopes that Truss will put a stop to the Housing Minister merry-go-round.

“He said: “There remains an imbalance between housing supply and demand for both buyers and tenants, so we look forward to a more normalised marketplace. We need consistent policies to achieve this.”

  • Peter Hendry

    House prices are not solely determined by supply. They are determined by the equilibrium between the number of houses currently available to buy (or to rent) compared with the number of those willing and able to do so.

    I don’t wish to appear to be obtuse here but house prices in many locations around the country have been out of reach to first-time buyers for ages now! It’s because first-time buyers don’t have the same purchasing power as second home buyers and/or businesses operating in the holiday letting sector.

    The only way to resolve this would be to bring house prices back to economic equilibrium for each local area concerned. That cannot be done unless the very methods used to market residential property, including the method of pairing appropriate buyers and renters with the properties available were to be significantly improved. That perhaps ought be the province of Propertymark except that they are a trade organisation, servicing the existing ways of marketing houses. I do question whether they are an organisation able to look at how to make the necessary improvements to the whole of estate agency but I would be willing to discuss this with their management as well as with government to find the best way forward for resolving the existing and long-standing house price crisis, if wished.


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