In focus: Oxford dons

A new dawn for housing policy - are the gaps between rungs on the housing ladder getting wider?

It came as something of a surprise to be asked to deliver my third consecutive presentation at RESI. In all honesty, it has made me question whether I can continue to keep the audience engaged or whether I have exhausted their patience; having stretched the graphical capability of powerpoint and the relentless regurgitation of housing statistics to breaking point.

Fortunately, a change in government and the introduction of a series of totemic housing policies, may just be my saviour this year.

A new policy dawn

With a strong emphasis on increasing housebuilding and promoting home ownership (seemingly above all other forms of tenure), thankfully there is plenty to talk about. For those looking to get on the housing ladder, Help to Buy has been supplemented by the Starter Homes initiative and an extension of Right to Buy.

Attempts have also been made to level the playing field between first time buyers and buy-to-let investors (though this may pale into insignificance compared to the reform of social housing).

For those at the other end of their home owning journey, inheritance tax thresholds have been increased.

So does this mean the champagne corks will be popping at Celtic Manor this year? It depends on whether these measures can really address a crisis that is perhaps most starkly illustrated by the generational divide in housing.

A generational divide

At one end of the spectrum Baby Boomers and Maturists (typically those over the age of 55) have received a tax break. This may allow more of their housing equity to be passed down a generation when they die, but it does little to encourage this during their lifetime.

So, at the other end of the spectrum, their children or grandchildren may have to wait longer for an injection of housing equity, that, in the wake of the Mortgage Market Review, will play an increasingly important part in their escalation of a housing ladder (especially as the gaps between each of the rungs appear to be getting wider).

By contrast, those Baby Boomer landlords who have taken on debt to finance their foray into buy to let, will see the tax relief which they get on interest payments capped, restricting their ability to expand their portfolios, especially as interest rates rise.

How much can other housing policies offset some of the potential unintended consequences of such policies for Generation Y?

Help to Buy has seemingly become a regular fixture of the housing market. Much hangs on the ability of this and the Starter Homes initiative to get more volume into first-time buyer numbers and house building alike. The proof of this particular pudding will undoubtedly be in the eating. The drive to streamline the planning system should mean a bigger spoon is available to aid that pudding’s consumption.

Inconvenient truths

Yet much more needs to be done. The need to increase supply in the private rented sector remains an inconvenient truth, as does the need to provide much more retirement housing across a broader spectrum to encourage downsizing and the recycling of housing wealth between generations.

These market realities, which will be uncomfortable for some and an opportunity for others, at least mean that there is still a glimmer of hope that a researcher can keep the assembled company at RESI entranced by a dazzling array of charts and graphs for at least one more year. 

Further information

Visit Savills Research or view the presentation slides above.

 

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