The ballots have been counted and verified, and the result is a surprisingly clear one. But how the outcome of the recent general election might affect the housing market, and particularly first-time buyers, still remains something of an unknown.
The Conservatives did not put forward a house-building target as such but were said to want to build 200,000 starter homes for first-time buyers under 40, to be sold at a 20 per cent discount. Help-to-Buy Isas would also be available for first-time buyers saving to buy a home. In addition, plans were announced to unlock enough sites for 400,000 new homes and funding for a further 275,000 affordable homes by 2020. The proposals to extend Right to Buy to housing associations also generated a large number of headlines.
Labour was reported to have pledged that first-time buyers would be spared stamp duty and moved to the front of the queue for new homes under plans to ease the national shortage of affordable houses and flats. Claiming that millions of families are being priced out of the property market, a Labour government was said to be committed to scrapping stamp duty for 90 per cent of first-time buyers.
The Liberal Democrats said they planned to give first-time buyers a leg up onto the housing ladder with a ‘rent-to-own’ scheme. This would result in the creation of 30,000 rent-to-own homes by 2020 through working with housing associations and other organisations.
Ukip vowed to restrict the Help-to-Buy scheme to British nationals with stamp duty axed for the first £250,000 of new homes on brownfield sites. Its ‘brownfield revolution’ was aimed at seeing 1m new homes built on land that has previously been developed on.
The Green Party suggested that it would scrap the Help-to-Buy scheme altogether, and introduce a ‘right-to-rent’ for homeowners so that those in financial difficulty could, with the help of the council, rent their home rather than lose it.
Exactly how important, relevant, clear and understood these policies were by voters is obviously difficult to determine. But the issue of FTBs would have continued to come under increased scrutiny no matter who gained power, both from the general public and opposition camps. FTBs and the house-building sector in general need strong support at governmental level irrespective of politics.
So where has this election result left first-time buyers? Again, this is a tricky question to answer at this stage, but all indications are that it will be business as usual for lenders, and that the FTB sector is unlikely to see any major immediate changes. If anything, the initial reaction was something of a collective sigh of relief among many housing market commentators.
This could well be due to a lack of radical policy shift in relation to a fairly robust UK economy and housing market. That is not to suggest that any potential change would have been necessarily bad. However, continuity can not be a bad thing as long as the market continues to move in the right direction, and a strong level of confidence is maintained, which – if initial reactions are anything to go by – certainly appears to be the case.