Philip Hammond’s Budget had a couple of surprises in store – not least the decision to scrap Stamp Duty for first time buyers on properties up to £300,000. Thankfully, however, the general consensus that the buy to let sector would be left out of this year’s Statement after being pummeled in the last few financial announcements proved to be correct.
One of the biggest announcements was that the government would be raising its house building target to 300,000 properties a year. The chancellor said he would be pumping £44bn of investment into the sector and would be supporting SME developers and not just the big players. It was a proposal that was very much welcomed across the industry.
That being said, I’m not sure the proposals go far enough – or, furthermore, whether they are actually achievable.
The government does not have a good track record of hitting house-building targets. Indeed, this year is the first time it has reached its 200,000 homes a year target since the credit crunch. How likely is it, then, that it will hit 300,000? And more to the point, where exactly will these properties be built?
Mr Hammond made it clear only urban land would be used, but I think that’s a mistake. It’s about time we had an open and frank discussion about building on greenbelt land. Let’s be realistic, not all greenbelt land is as picturesque and lovely as the rest. The system has to change because there is a very real housing crisis going on. Times like this cause for drastic measures and rethinking our use of a small percentage of green belt land would have a massive impact on the amount of properties we can build.
And finally, as I have reiterated on countless occasions and something which was once again ignored in this week’s Budget, we need much more industry involvement in matters relating to the housing market. Property should not be politicised. Those of us working in the housing sector day in day out have a clearer idea of what steps needs to be taken to improve homeownership and to promote a healthy and successful rental sector. Utilise our expertise, please.