Whichever flavour of government we have, it seems that those pesky Chancellors just can’t leave the housing market alone – as we’ve seen, this year’s Autumn Statement is no exception.
Hardly surprising really – the UK is almost unique in Europe for its level of private home ownership – just think of all those properties changing hands giving the Chancellor opportunity to collect a slice of the cake through Stamp Duty Land Tax.
April 2016 saw the introduction of a 3% surcharge on buyers of second homes with a view to cooling down the buy to let market and give first-time buyers better opportunities to get on the housing ladder. To date this has slowed the housing market and raised only half the revenue predicted by the Treasury.
The measure has proved to be very unpopular and ineffective in its aims and with Tory broadsheets, notably the Telegraph, mounting a campaign for its abolition, rumours abounded pre-autumn statement that the surcharge would be scrapped. This was, however not to be. Perhaps to continue the attempt to slow down buy to let investors search for a decent return at a time when interest rates and markets are so low, the Autumn Statement delivered more bad news for the would be landlord in the form of a proposed curb on letting agents’ fees, no doubt set to hit them with the likely result of shifting admin charges from the tenant to the landlord.
With pressure from Theresa May to help the “just about managing”, Philip Hammond was under pressure to make a difference for this disparate group which can be hard to define. A £1.4 billion fund to meet a target of 40,000 more affordable homes should be good news for builders and the “JAMs” after the number of new affordable homes has sunk this year to its lowest level in 24 years.
Another £2.3bn for 100,000 new homes in high-demand areas should leave developers feeling a bit more optimistic about 2017. Naturally new homes mean an added burden on infrastructure and so it is to be hoped that the £1.1bn extra investment in English local transport networks and £220m to reduce traffic pinch points will go far enough.
All in all, there are no big surprises for the housing market and home-buyers – not unsurprising perhaps for the Chancellor who carries the sobriquet ‘the ultimate boring accountant’
Property lawyers and conveyancers are celebrating though as buried in the detail and not worthy of headlines in the media was the welcome announcement of the scrapping of the Government's plans to privatise the Land Registry. This follows a public consultation and much pressure from property lawyers.