Industry reacts to Housing White Paper
The white paper “Fixing our broken housing market” sets out a broad range of reforms that government plans to introduce to help reform the housing market and increase the supply of new homes. As ever, the property industry was quick to react. Here's what they've been saying.
Jeremy Leaf, north London estate agent and a former RICS residential chairman, said: "The proposals in the White Paper sound great but we have heard it all before. Talking is all well and good but what about action - what will it actually mean for the builders, the planners, the architects, the local authorities and of course the buyers in the near future?
The first issue when dealing with any problem is to recognise it - and we welcome the fact that the government has done that. But we now want to see a strict, verifiable timetable for delivery on all fronts. Whether it is the issues with lettings or supply or infrastructure, delivery or planning - we want to see what is going to make a difference.
What would be refreshing and of immense value would be to see a cross-party political agreement so we don’t see the booms and busts and stops and starts that have dogged housing policy in the past. A measure of agreement across the political divide would be welcome so that we can move forward not just in this parliament but in future parliaments. A coherent, respected, long-term policy which involves building more houses and keeping prices in check would go a long way to solving the broken housing market."
David Cox, Managing Director, Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) and Mark Hayward, Managing Director, National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA), comment: “We welcome today’s Housing White Paper; thinking about homes across tenures is really important and it’s reassuring that the Government is seeking a holistic view of all housing needs. The White Paper raises many of the significant issues the housing sector is facing. The important next step is that the industry puts forward robust solutions and that Government listens and takes these forward to really make a difference.”
Supply and demand
Mark Hayward, Managing Director, NAEA says: “Only 32,000 affordable homes were built in 2016, and this is totally unacceptable, especially given the number of homes we really need. We’ve had years of empty promises now and this has exacerbated the problem resulting in the price of properties being out of reach for so many.
The announcement the Government plans to diversify the market by opening it up to smaller builders who embrace innovative and efficient methods is great and could go some way in helping deliver a vast number of homes quickly. However, it’s vital the Government considers the cost of building modular homes and understands these could remain unaffordable and unsuitable for FTBs.”
Greenbelt and ancient woodland
Mark Hayward, says: “We are not advocating building on ancient woodland; however, we do believe the greenbelt policy should be reappraised. Let’s not allow objections to building on the green belt help further deteriorate the housing crisis.”
Mark Hayward, says: “The Government’s plans to help older people move at the right time and in the right way to free up homes for other buyers is an important issue and something we believe would make a big difference. Around two fifths of homes in the UK are owned by those aged over 65, who have no desire to move as they do not want to sustain the costs or stress involved with moving. They are considered “bedroom blockers” and are the main reason why there are a large number of homes with two or three spare bedrooms. We look forward to working with the Government on how it aims to use the existing housing stock in a more efficient way.”
New focus on renting tenures
David Cox, Managing Director, ARLA says: “We are pleased that the Government has signalled a move towards a mixed tenure approach to house building and recognised that owner-occupation is not the only option available for those looking for a home. It is important that we have a housing market that works for everyone, not just for those who own their own property.”
Encouraging institutional investment
David Cox, says: “ARLA welcomes the Government’s plans to encourage more institutional investment to boost the number of properties available for rent. Any proposals that increase supply should be applauded.
However, this approach should not be at the expense of small landlords who make up the bulk of the private rented sector. Experience has shown that, even in countries where institutional investment in the PRS has been encouraged, it still only makes up a small part of the sector. Small landlords are vital to the health of our rental sector.”
Three year tenancies
David Cox, says: “ARLA welcomes any attempt to improve stability in the housing market and it is important that tenants feel that they are secure in their homes and are able to plan for the future. We welcome the Government’s approach to this, and have been working closely with DCLG on proposals for incentivising longer term tenancies; after all, it is in the best interests of landlords, tenants and agents to have long, well maintained tenancies. It is a fallacy that a regular churn of tenants benefits anyone.”
Powers to stop unscrupulous landlords
David Cox, says: “We are highly supportive of the powers contained in the Housing and Planning Act as they are targeted at those that bring the industry into disrepute and we encourage the Government to bring them into force as soon as possible.”
Russell Quirk, property expert and eMoov CEO, had this to say: “As always, commendable that the Government should look to again address the housing crisis, but there is an all too familiar theme of ‘close but no cigar’ where today’s announcements are concerned and a real lack of ambition. Although this paper will be cautiously welcomed, much of what Mr Javid announced today was nothing but recycle rhetoric and statistics from previous announcements, and as always, the Devil will be in the doing.
Rather than make any real steps towards a solution, today’s changes seem to only trim the fat from a system that is fundamentally broken.
Life Time ISA
The Life Time ISA is a positive step, but the Government’s various Help to Buy schemes, regardless of what guise they come under, have had an insufficient impact in helping first-time buyers historically. So, there is no real expectation that this will be any different as it is essentially a regurgitated version of previous schemes.
The stubborn stance on green belt is disappointing, there are swathes of land that are classed as green belt that should not be labelled as such, which could go a long way in addressing the shortage of land needed to build.
We must be more grown up about building on green belt and we are only talking about 1% of it, but it would seem the Government are more concerned about going to war with middle-England than they are with addressing the housing crisis.
All too often knee-jerk councillors are scared of lobbying NIMBYs and bow to their demands, stopping attempts to build housing at the planning committee level, in fear that their career will slide if they don’t. The reality is that we need to build on about 9% of the nation and therefore someone will have their nose put out of place by a new development down the road from them.
But the consequence of not doing so is that our children and their children will have nowhere to live and we won’t have a housing crisis on our hands, but a social crisis.
Kicking pensioners out of their homes with the offer of some poultry compensation will be of cold comfort to them. Downsizing may seem like a nice concept on the face of it but it really is just that, a concept, and one that has not been considered properly in terms of what it actually involved, which is essentially kicking people out of the homes they have worked hard for.
Developers and Building
The reduction in time between planning permission and the start of building is such a small aspect of the problem that it will barely make a dent to the overall outcome.
The move to encourage developers away from low-density areas, whilst helping to fund smaller firms to challenge the big players in the space may incite more competition and more extensive housing projects, but we need these developers to be encouraged to actually build in the first place. Something they currently aren’t doing due to a lack of incentives.
In fact, all we have really seen from developers of late is the disgraceful backhanded tactics of selling off leases behind the backs of homeowners. This is a practice fuelled by greed to maximise the profit made by these developers at the expense of the homeowner, under the guise of addressing the housing crisis whilst they’re in fact fuelling it. Rather than potentially increase the number of them building, these developers need to be first brought to account for their actions.
Again, the promise of stamping this out is a commendable one, but one that is unlikely to come to fruition.”
Ian Thomas, co-founder and CIO of LendInvest, commented: "The housing white paper makes it clear that the onus is on all levels of government and industry to deliver more homes of every type.
The success of small scale housebuilders is of critical importance to the increase in housing supply. In the execution of these measures, government must put SMEs at the fore, providing them with access to finance, land and skills to put homes on British streets.
We want to see these small builders and property investors at the front of the queue to purchase public land and we look forward to opportunities to work with government to get public finance into the hands of these developers."
Aidan Rushby, CEO of Movebubble, commented: “This whitepaper has demonstrated that the government are only slowly opening up to the public’s changing attitude towards traditional property ownership and long-term renting. As such it will ultimately not help UK renters and agents in the long term, or counteract the belief, contributing to the housing crisis, that buying is the only acceptable end goal in consumers’ property journeys.
Yes, the changes they have proposed will mean the encouragement of more innovative solutions, such as build-to-rent (BTR), and measures to improve access to long-term tenancies will be secured. Which on the surface is positive; there is an undeniable trend away from buying and towards renting. However, the government’s plans will complicate processes already put in place by the property industry to increase the amount of affordable, high-quality BTR options. Ultimately, though they have the best intentions, the government should let the industry regulate itself, and spend more time on promoting the UK BTR market as a viable financial investment.
If the government’s plans are to make any real impact, they must do more to demonstrate the attractive lifestyle benefits which distinguish housing alternatives like BTR from traditional offerings. Instead of introducing unnecessary legislation into the industry, which will not help the UK catch-up with the rest of the world where life-long renting, and BTR are already accepted as a favourable alternative to home ownership.”
Paula Higgins, Chief Executive, HomeOwners Alliance, said: “After years of policy-making which has focused mostly on inflating demand, it appears the government is keen to tackle the UK’s chronic shortage of housing. But we need more action and fewer words. It’s difficult to see how these measures will enable the government to meet its target of 1 million new homes by 2020.
Increased supply must not come at the expense of quality and the government is very quiet on this point. A continued and unbalanced focus on building quantity rather than quality new-builds means we’re in serious danger of causing more harm than good with housing which is not fit for future generations.
A new wave of housebuilding will require ever greater scrutiny from government, and stronger regulation to tackle malpractice. The latest wave of new homes, for example, have caught buyers in a leasehold trap – leaving them with the choice of shelling out thousands for their freehold, or living in homes which are unsaleable. The entire system is broken and in desperate need of reform if we are to create a stable housing system that truly works for everyone.
It’s welcoming to see the white paper sets out some measures and investment in working towards affordable rent. Build to Rent, for example, will hopefully show some promising signs of creating a step-change in the supply of homes available for rent.
If the system works correctly, renting provides a launch pad from which aspiring homeowners can save money each month and make significant steps towards owning their own property.
The government should not give up on homeownership and the security and stability that comes with it. Recent research from the British Social Attitudes Survey found that 86% of people want to own their own home, while our own findings have found that there is a homeownership gap of 5millon people.
Finding a long-term solution to making housing more affordable and getting people firmly on the property ladder so they can have a home of their own is ultimately what is better for society.”
Increasing the supply of land
Developers have deliberately managed the supply of new homes for too long, enabling them to take advantage of pent up housing demand. The government is making small steps towards preventing developers from sitting on valuable land, but we strongly believe more needs to be done. Holding up the development impairs the speed of building housing and we need to deal with the issue of affordability.
Stats show there is a huge discrepancy between the number of plots and homes approved for development and the number of actual homes being built so this is clearly a huge problem which needs to be tackled head on.”
The focus on leasehold houses is not before time, but we also need to turn our attention to those who have bought them already.
Those who were encouraged to purchase through the Help to Buy scheme and the latest wave of new homes, for example, find themselves caught in a leasehold trap – leaving them with the choice of shelling out thousands for their freehold, or living in homes which are unsaleable. The entire system is broken and in desperate need of reform if we are to create a stable housing system that truly works for everyone.”
Tony Lewis, Head of Policy at CIEH, said: “More young people and families are renting their homes long-term and plans to extend the length of tenancy agreements is a step in the right direction. This will give occupants more security, an opportunity to make a home for themselves and put down roots in their local communities.
At the same time, landlords have a responsibility to ensure accommodation is fit for people to live in as housing conditions have a significant impact on physical health and mental wellbeing. New homes need to be built to modern standards and there is also a need to ensure the older housing stock is brought up to 21 Century standards.
Plans to build new homes are desperately needed but developers and councils need to ensure that any brownfield land developed is properly decontaminated. Environmental Health officers have a vital role in working with their planning colleagues to ensure new developments are built quickly as well as being fit for purpose.”
Ged McPartlin, sales director at Ascend Properties, comments: “Any help to boost the private rental sector must be commended, providing stability and peace of mind for tenants who are increasingly feeling squeezed. We need to ensure that there is more choice in the market, realising that it is not just young professionals who need apartments but also families who need more space in good quality houses for rent. This is less of a problem outside of London but if the capital can be seen to be leading the way, the positive ripples will be felt far and wide.”
Graham Davidson, managing director of Sequre Property Investment, said: “After years of focusing on the unrealistic goal of ‘home ownership for all’, the Government is finally realising the vital role that the private rental sector has to play in delivering a balanced housing market. While the focus is on institutional grade investment, we must not lose sight of the role that individual landlords play. Build to Rent has been much talked about but as of yet we have yet to see many tangible results – meaning that it is down to private landlords to deliver the goods. Any effort to kick-start building and development can only be positive but as with any new initiatives, we must not get too excited as the impact could take many years to be felt.”
David Giovanni, Managing Director of Whitecroft Group, comments: “We welcome the announcement of relaxed planning and increased funding to help small-medium developers enter the market. The current planning system is arduous and geared towards large scale operations that have both the time and funds to successfully navigate it, when the reality is that it is small to medium sized developers that can bring to fruition the innovative solutions needed to help build more homes. Currently just ten companies build around 60% of new homes – that has to change.”
Jo Eccles, Managing Director of independent property search agency, Sourcing Property, said: “The government’s announcement to bolster the Private Rented Sector (PRS) and Build to Rent is a positive step. Attracting institutional investors to the professional landlord industry is vital. Not only will they be able to help build appropriate housing stock (and quickly) but they will be in a position to permit very long term and professionally managed tenancies, which would-be buyers are craving.
The aspiration to be a home owner is well and truly changing, whether by choice or financial circumstance. For example, a large majority of millennials don't actually aspire to owning a home; they don't want to have to save their disposable income for a deposit on a property, or to lock themselves in to remaining in one place for a long time, or burden themselves with the responsibility of having to maintain a property.
Downsizers aren't dissimilar. Many I know would gladly downsize to a more manageable and suitably located property if they had the option to rent indefinitely and save themselves the huge expense of having to buy the smaller property and sink vast sums of their released equity into stamp duty in the process.
Individual landlords don't hold the answer to the emerging nation of willing renters. They are often constrained to offering relatively short term tenancies of no more than a year or two at a time due to buy to let mortgage restrictions on the length of tenancies they can commit to, or their own personal circumstances that may see them move back to the property or use the value of their property for other things. In addition, the upcoming mortgage interest tax changes may well result in a reduction in individual landlords over the coming years.
Not only does institutional investment in the PRS mean appropriate housing available on a long-term basis, but the yield from their property holdings should provide capital preservation that so many institutions, such as pension funds, need. A win-win for everyone in my opinion.”
Duncan Walker, managing director of Renaissance Villages, comments: “The government needs to deliver on its promises by ensuring that the planning process moves faster. This will attract a wider range of financial backing for development schemes and speed up delivery. Slow planning processes and lengthy build programmes are not attractive to backers such as private equity. For the retirement sector to really gain traction we need to support funding by a completely different capital structure.”
This was also an opportunity for the Communities Secretary to introduce an incentive for people buying a family home from a downsizing owner. This would galvanise the progress of property chains, which are often upwards of five sales long and help to free up larger family homes and assist the housing ladder from first-time buyers upwards.”
There is a huge demand for good quality retirement property in the UK and a lack of suitable stock. As a result, reservations for our properties are very strong but exchanges are a challenge. Exchanges take an average of four months to complete and delays in the selling process are preventing retirees from making the move from a four or five bedroom family house to a more appropriately sized cottage or apartment. This process proves emotionally draining for those looking to downsize, who are often blocked from completing on the purchase of a home into which, psychologically, they have already moved.”
Mark Scott, a specialist in residential property at law firm Blake Morgan, said: “The publishing of today’s White Paper heralds a significant shift in the national housing strategy that should be welcomed by many buyers, sellers and housebuilders.
It has reached a tipping point where simply not enough homes are being built to meet demand and reforms are long overdue. Home ownership should be within everyone’s reach, but what is significant about these measures is they could be the first real catalyst for change in the rental market, which is at a record high, particularly in London.
Incentives for developers to build higher where there is shortage of land, more affordable rental housing, and slashing timescales for housebuilding once planning permission is given, could breathe new life into the housing market at a time when it is really needed.
The test will be whether the measures actually equate to more homes being delivered by developers given the instability in the past few years and uncertainty around Brexit.
One of the proposals is for developers to commence site construction within two years of planning permission being granted as opposed to the current three year limit which will encourage quicker completion dates. This is a certainly a step in the right direction, but a real incentive in my view would be for developers to be offered a tax incentive to achieve early structural completion dates for their buyers and further reforms to the level of Stamp Duty Land Tax payable by first time buyers.”
Rajiv Nathwani, the Director of Quivira Captial, had this to say: “Considering this has been delayed by three months, I would have expected much more substance. It was hailed as a great leap forward for home building in this country but it just seems like they are promising more consultations.
Nothing in here besides the ability to build more dense housing will assist in the short term. There is a shortage now and I would have expected there to be some movement on the opening up of planning rules and allowing some building on green belt. They have categorically stated this won’t be the case. I think this is yet another paper stating that somebody will do something at some point. There isn’t much now.
Incentives and schemes such as help to buy are what we need. They immediately helped those looking to buy their first home. Personally we have noticed a big shift in sales once our scheme was registered for help to buy.”
Jeff Doble, Chief Executive of London based estate agents, Dexters, said: “The stalled sites initiative is misconceived, it is likely to create unintended consequences. This is a classic case of “Nanny knows best”, with the Government failing to understand the issues be being too quick to dismiss the views of the industry.
Once again, this is too little too late in my view - tinkering around the edges, rather than dealing with the causes for the slow rate of new build - the planning system, associated charges and stamp duty. It is impossible that these measures will create the step-change that the Government says it needs to reach its 2020 target of one million new homes. Brownfield land is often more valuable in existing use than risking the enormous costs, delays and uncertainty of the planning system.”