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The Autumn Budget: A new hope?

The Prime Minister announced at the Conservative Party Conference in October this year, she would personally “dedicate her premiership…to restoring hope” in the housing market and as predicted the Autumn Budget’s main focus was on restoring hope in the housing sector.

The Eagerly awaited Autumn Budget was delivered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond to the House of Commons on 22 November. The question is has the Chancellor’s Budget served to fulfil the Prime Minister’s promise?

What follows below is a summary of the main points from the Autumn Budget, particularly the £44 billion in government support that has been allocated to the housing market to drive the building of 300,000 new homes by the mid 2020s and our analysis of how the strategies outlined in the budget will play out over the next 12 months.

Help to Buy programme

Following the financial crisis a decade ago larger deposits and high prices have meant that mortgages are often unattainable for first time buyers with upfront costs being very high. The market remains stagnated and there are, as yet unknown, implications regarding Brexit to take into consideration.

In response, the Chancellor promised a £10 billion cash injection into the Help to Buy programme. The increased demand for new homes this scheme has generated has seen house building rates improve, although predominately outside of London, where the £450k cap is generally accepted as unachievable. Whether your view is that this will stabilise the market or accelerate demand no-one can argue the positive effect this Programme has had on the number of new homes built since its launch in 2013.

Our view

Capsticks’ view mirrors that of the DLCG: The 2016 report commissioned by the DCLG estimated that this scheme had generated 43% additional new homes over and above what would have otherwise been built. We can therefore look forward to further new Help to Buy homes being built under this Programme in the coming years - whether nor not you agree with the scheme -  it has delivered increased numbers of new builds. The associated boost in revenues will also go some way to stabilising the market.

SDLT

SDLT scrapped for first time buyers. The Chancellor announced that instead of granting the anticipated SDLT Holiday “…which would only help those now with savings…” SDLT is to be abolished immediately for first-time buyers purchasing properties valued at up to £300k. In London, to acknowledge the higher property prices, first time buyers can claim relief on the first £300k for properties valued up to £500k. This means SDLT is payable at 5% on the portion from £300k to £500k. This relief serves to provide a maximum saving of £5k for all first time buyers around the country. This announcement is welcome relief for first time buyers but will not assist those homeowners currently unable to upgrade or downsize.

A recent Santander’s report, undertaken by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, titled “an examination of residential Stamp Duty Land Tax (published on 15 November 2017) states that the current stamp duty regime has led to 146,000 fewer housing transactions occurring over the last five years.

Our view

Our view on the scrappage of SDLT is that essentially there are not enough homes being built. However, if we look at it from another perspective what increases demand should increase supply. As the appetite for purchasing new homes increased in first time buyers, house builders should be afforded greater certainty that their end product will be purchased. It is also worth noting that this incentive should not be abused and should be rolled-out accordingly.

Funds to support housing mMarket

£44 billion in government support (including the £10 billion contribution to the Help to Buy) has been allocated to the housing market. The government has dedicated itself to building 300,000 homes a year by the mid 2020’s. The Chancellor announced that steps will be taken to grant the newly created Homes for England investment powers, allowing them to bypass housing associations and volume house builders lending money to SME delivering housing even on small scale. Mr Hammond stated this would potentially unlock 40,000 plots on small schemes which currently have no funding and no way forward. housing associations working as funders and partnering government so as to allow the building of homes on an industrial scale is now likely to see the light of day. Of course, housing associations will still be expected to come up with alternative means of funding to meet their required delivery targets. Particularly in light of the likes of the G15’s, recent commitment to delivering a total of 42,000 affordable homes in the capital over the next five years. Who is to say how far this fund will go and how it will be allocated in practice; but it is certainly a much larger commitment than the previously touted £2 billion for the sector. 

Our view

Capsticks view is to quote Mrs May “We must get back to the business of building the good quality new homes for people who need them most”. 

Help for the victims of Grenfell Tower

The chancellor announced that £28 million has been allocated to pay for mental health and counselling services for the victims of the tragedy and as a contribution from central government towards the costs of regeneration in the west London neighbourhood space.

Our view

Our view is that the Chancellor did not announce funding for the retrofitting of sprinklers in high rise tower blocks and will no doubt face pressure to find funding for this purpose in the coming months.

About Capsticks

Capsticks’ housing team, one of the largest specialist housing teams operating across the UK, has seen significant growth in 2017. The team has 12 partners nationwide and a head count of over fifty housing specialists. The team is totally dedicated to providing specialist legal services to our housing clients. Every member of our team is a housing expert and our approach is a pragmatic, efficient and cost effective service.

Find out more about our housing legal services here.

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