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By Graham Norwood

Editor, EAT, LAT & LLT

Graham Awards


Boris Johnson’s Successor: what next for housing policies?

Will he stay or will he go? You don’t need me to say who ‘he’ is - it’s the only story in town.

If Boris Johnson does leave the appropriately-named Downing Street, what will the fallout be for the property industry as a whole and agents in particular?

Firstly, the short term big picture.


After a few weeks of instability (Conservative leadership elections are surprisingly drawn out affairs, especially if there are multiple candidates as would be the case this time) the new Prime Minister will face a storm of economic headwinds.

Whether it’s Johnson, Truss, Sunak or A N Other, these gusts - interest rate rises, inflation reaching or topping six per cent, and the energy price cap hike - are likely to batter the housing market and quickly dampen sentiment. Within weeks we could have demand for homes to buy no greater than supply for the first time in approaching two years.

The silver lining is that a new Prime Minister would likely be seen to be treating this as the first priority; by contrast, Boris Johnson would be fending off attacks and criticisms which are likely to follow him for the remainder of his premiership - weeks, months or years.

So a Truss or Sunak victory would probably do more to stabilise markets and public sentiment in the wake of the much-predicted cost of living crisis this spring and summer.

Secondly, the details.

The Renters' Reform Bill and White Paper, already considered long overdue by some, could be delayed still further if a new Prime Minister shuffles the Cabinet and gives us yet another new Housing Secretary.

It’s difficult to know how close the White Paper is to being released: it was supposed to be early in 2022 but junior housing minister Eddie Hughes said just days ago in the Commons that talks were still going on amongst stakeholders to try to ensure the proposals were ‘right first time’ before going public and then on to lengthy consultation later this year.

The multi-faceted leasehold controversy - ranging from ground rents on new builds to the sensitive subject of remediation of dangerous cladding - is intensely complex and it is to Michael Gove’s credit that he’s got a handle on many of the issues so quickly.

Would a replacement Housing Secretary be so committed to detail and so clever at appeasing the most outspoken critics? It’s unlikely, so there could be delays and further disputes here if there’s a new Prime Minister.

Then of course there is the seemingly-endless saga of the Regulation of Property Agents - the arcane title given to a raft of measures at the heart of estate and letting agency life including the formalisation of qualifications, training, redress and a lot more.

The pandemic appears to have stifled what little momentum the government showed even before early 2020; there were some trials of reservation agreements, talks with portals about carrying upfront property information alongside listings, and a few PropTech initiatives to try to get different aspects of the buying process to talk to each other.

However, in reality there has appeared to be little tangible progress and this has spurred questions to the government in recent weeks even from Lord Richard Best, who chaired the RoPA proceedings and authored its comprehensive report back in summer 2019. Would a new Prime Minister give it a higher priority than the governments of Theresa May and Boris Johnson? Frankly, who knows?

Then there is the ever-growing web of Net Zero policies, many of which directly affect home buyers, existing owners and especially landlords.

Under Boris Johnson (perhaps surprisingly) there has been importance given to green policies regarding EPCs, heat sources and ambitious targets to transform an elderly housing stock. Many of these will be costly to landlords, whose complaints have fallen on deaf ears so far: a new Prime Minister, possibly with no more than two years before a General Election, might be inclined to dial down the energy efficiency targets.

Thirdly, the long term mood music.

There are, of course, multiple other policies and events which impact estate agency, the property industry and the economy which would all change - at least a little, and perhaps a lot - under a new Conservative Prime Minister.

There are Universal Credit changes, planning reform, the possible relaxation of mortgage controls, concerns over how the Energy Price Cap will be changed, plus the whole economic fall out of Brexit - the latter, so far, largely concealed by the pandemic.

All of these, and the competence with which they are undertaken and presented to the public, will affect confidence and so have a strong bearing on the housing market.

All these may well also decide the result of the next General Election, so effectively what happens in the next year or two could determine the political landscape until near 2030.

Without wanting to jump on a fast-moving bandwagon, it’s hard to imagine a new Prime Minister failing to do a better job than the current one when it comes to mastering policy.

Enacting that change from Johnson to a new Prime Minister, however, is up to MPs directly and the public indirectly through the pressure they apply on MPs. It’s going to be an interesting few weeks…

*Editor of Estate Agent Today, Letting Agent Today and Landlord Today, Graham can be found tweeting about all things property at @PropertyJourn

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    Who cares? If you need the Government or political / econpmic climate to be right to make a success of yourself, then you're done from the start. It doesn't matter who's in, they aren't looking to help any of us. Ever.


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