The astonishing advert and tweet published by the Chairman of the Conservative Party, Grant Shapps (aka Michael Green aka Bingo Bob) illustrates the condescending and insulting view that the Tories – the Eton Mess – have of the great British public.
If Bingo Bob thought a penny off a pint and cheaper Bingo would woo millions of working class voters then he was wrong – but it does illustrate that there is no money left, unless it has a political purpose of course.
The Budget holds out little hope for housing and has nothing at all to say about affordable homes. However the detail of the Budget documents always includes some items that get little attention but do have an impact on the housing world, so here are some initial thoughts.
The Government are obviously still thrashing around looking for a magic bullet to get housebuilding up. They have the cheek to claim that the extension of the Help to Buy equity loan scheme counts as ‘further action to boost housing supply’ but it is perhaps more significant that they have not extended the Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme – is that an admission that it is misguided? A small builders finance fund is probably quite useful and is something Labour have been talking about. Small and medium-sized builders cite lack of access to finance as a key constraint on their activities.
The Urban Development Corporation for Ebbsfleet has a ring of deju vu about it, possibly because this small New Town has been announced before. A new prospectus for additional Garden Cities will be published but they will be ‘locally-led’, a policy we have criticised on Red Brick before. Their boast that planning approvals for housing are at a 5 year high is not much to write home about given the scale of the recession and the absolute certainty that the economy would eventually recover irrespective of Government actions. Most people will support a little more help being given to self-builders.
I shiver whenever I hear the word ‘regeneration’ these days because I have seen too many council estates being pulled down for private housing with the social rented element not replaced. So a new fund available to private developers will need to be watched. More support for infrastructure around Cambridge and a new rail connection to help open up Barking Riverside (a move supported by London Labour Housing Group in its submission to Lyons) may unlock thousands of new homes. We need many more plans like these. More planning relaxations are to be proposed but the Government still seem to be missing the point that planning authorities need to be working strategically at a regional level and to be operating as proactive bodies rather than just responding to private development proposals.
The Budget also includes welcome changes to the use of ‘corporate envelopes’ to purchase property, thereby avoiding stamp duty land tax, bringing properties of value over £500K into the new regime. It involves the extraordinarily named new Annual Tax on Enveloped Dwellings (ATED).
There is also a pre-announcement of a proposed ‘Right to Move’ for social tenants to increase their mobility for work-related reasons. Options will include giving such tenants priority when a new social home becomes available, and setting aside a pool of vacant lets to enable them to move across local authority boundaries. This seems totally at odds with everything done previously on housing allocations, with a stronger emphasis on residential requirements and ‘locals first’.
There is to be a pilot project on passing a share of development benefits directly to individual households. We will have to wait to see if this is a scheme after the style of Islington’s innovative approach to development.