And can they do it quickly?
Why? Well this week, once again, we saw another Housing Minister unveiled.
Step forward Lee Rowley.
Nice chap it seems. Mr Rowley was a Housing Minister under Liz Truss. Now he’s back. I hope you are keeping up with all this. But you’d be forgiven if not. After all, we’ve now had SIXTEEN different housing ministers since 2010.
That’s one every ten months or so. The Chairman of a Premier League football club would be proud of such a record.
It’s little wonder then that we've not seen any continuity in terms of the policies and ideas which are desperately needed to breathe life back into the property market.
On the basis that Mr Rowley will still be in post when this article is published I’d like to offer him a bit of advice on things he could do to help stimulate the market.
Because, despite claims to the contrary, there are steps that could be taken which I believe would genuinely help.
First the Government should look to reduce Stamp Duty for downsizers - full-rate Stamp Duty should be suspended for so-called “last time movers” to increase the market availability of larger, family-sized homes. The offer need only be limited for a 12-month period, as stock levels are beginning to increase due to the current chill in the property market.
I’d also like to see a 10-year plan for property - setting targets for house building is all well and good, but who is actually going to build them? The construction industry is beset with skills shortages - an existing situation which has been exacerbated by the Covid pandemic. A major campaign is needed to persuade school-leavers and graduates that careers in construction really are interesting, rewarding and well-paid, whether it is an architect, structural engineer, surveyor or bricklayer
Next, we need to get away from an over reliance on the private sector - house-builders will only build for profit and have a vested interest in constraining supply to keep prices high.
Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove has accused the housebuilding industry of acting like a cartel. If the sales market is flat, the number of new homes being built falls drastically.
I’d also back seeing enhanced tax relief for landlords who insulate their tenant’s home – the cost of living crisis has brought energy-saving measures into the spotlight and insulating homes is key to ensuring that energy is used efficiently.
Finally I’d like to see increased council tax on second homes - local unease over second homes where owners leave them empty for much of the year has hit the headlines and is a growing issue that needs tackling. Second homes have been blamed for driving down the affordability of housing for local residents in high-demand areas where second homes are often used as holiday accommodation.
At present the prospect of ever owning a home is a complete fantasy for millions of young people.
And rising numbers are now unable to even rent a property due to the soaring cost in many towns and cities.
It’s an issue that is also concerning one of my colleague’s Elliot Vure, from property lender Together. It suggests that reducing Stamp Duty for ‘last time movers’, rewarding landlords for improving the energy efficiency of their properties and boosting construction can become a key to stimulating the property market.
They’re right. We need broad, wide-ranging and ambitious policies to help turbo-charge the market in 2024.
But we also need a Housing Minister who is allowed to stick around long enough to deliver them.
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