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Housing paper criticised for lack of blockbuster moves

Housing paper criticised for lack of blockbuster moves

Property experts and financial advisers have sounded notes of disappointment that the government’s housing white paper fails to go far enough to tackle the crisis in the sector, despite Communities Secretary Sajid Javid pledge to “get Britain building”.

The paper, which was released today (7 February), details the government’s plans to build more houses, diversify the housing sector, improve affordability, and protect renters. 

 “The housing market in this country is broken and the solution means building many more houses in the places that people want to live,” said Mr Javid.

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However, the white paper was greeted with a mixed reaction from the property world.

Property expert and eMoov CEO, Russell Quirk, said that the proposals “seem to only trim the fat from a system that is fundamentally broken".

Paul Goodman, chairman of the National Association of Commercial Brokers added that “it just looks like the government is re-treading old ground”. 

Bob Riach, principal at Riach Financial Advisers, said that he was concerned that the building initiatives would do more to help the builders than prospective homeowners. 

“I sometimes suspect that when the government does these things they are for the building trade rather than just the homeowners.

"Again, it’s a positive for the country as it will bring more employment which will put more money in people’s pockets so they can get mortgages.

“But people have got to be able to buy these houses,” he said.

Elsewhere in the white paper the government underlined its commitment towards the Help to Buy Isa as a way of encouraging young people to save for a deposit.

A promise to increase the tax on empty homes was seen as another way to expand the current housing market.

But advisers were critical that there was no mention of downsizing incentives. 

 “The sheer scale of empty and under-occupied homes in Britain shows there is the capacity for older people to downsize to smaller homes and it’s a positive move that the government is taking steps towards building the right kind of houses in the right places,” said Rutherford Wilkinson, operations director at Newcastle-based adviser Trevor Clark.

“However, there was a lack of specific measures in the whitepaper to incentivise older people to downsize. 

“The largest amount of potentially untapped wealth an older person has is most likely to be stored within their property, an achievement which they have probably spent most of their life procuring.

"Downsizing can release money that can be spent on care being provided at home rather than moving into residential long-term care, which can be catastrophically expensive.” 

The paper also outlined plans to speed up the rate of house building, by making it easier for councils to issue completion notices and reducing the average planning permission wait from three years to two.

Councils will also be required to calculate housing demand in their area, and review these plans every five years.

They will also be expected to use land more efficiently by building higher and avoiding low-density housing plans.  This ties in with the government’s promise to avoid building on the green belt except in “exceptional circumstances.”