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UK government has failed to prioritise housing

UK government has failed to prioritise housing

Government has failed to provide clear direction on housing policy, mortgage lenders have claimed. 

According to Peter Williams, executive director of the Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association (Imla), the majority of the association's members believe the government's "housing minister merry-go-round" has contributed to a lack of cohesive housing policy.

He said: "The government’s lack of clear, structured housing policy has been an elephant in the room for some time now.

"Successive administrations have made pledges and promises to change this, but it’s never been fully followed through with any real comprehensive long-term policy."

While he acknowledged initiatives and schemes such as Help to Buy have "stimulated bursts of activity" and the mortgage market itself has adapted to evolving consumer needs over time, there will never be an end to the lack of affordable homes to buy and rent until the government sorts out these "fundamental issues".

Mr Williams decried the continual appointment of housing minister after housing minister over the past six years.

Gavin Barwell, who was unveiled as the new housing minister in July after Prime Minister Theresa May announced her new team, was the sixth politician to assume the role since the start of 2010.

He had followed in the footsteps of John Healey, Grant Shapps, Mark Prisk, Kris Hopkins and, most recently, Brandon Lewis.

In a survey carried out by Imla among its membership, 59 per cent of lenders said this state of flux had adversely affected the mortgage and property markets. Some 42 per cent of intermediaries agreed.

Mr Williams suggested a possible solution to the revolving door could be the establishment of an independent, less party-political housing department. The research suggested 59 per cent of lenders and 48 per cent of brokers supported this idea.

He said: "The role of housing minister hasn’t been a cabinet-level role since being downgraded in 2010, but around half of lenders think reinstating this status might help.

“Responsibility doesn’t just lie with the Housing Minister though, and it would be good to see the chancellor address the housing supply issue further in his forthcoming Autumn Statement."

Imla has also called on the new chancellor, Philip Hammond, to delay or reverse the heavy tax relief changes which have impacted on the rental market, and the capacity of that sector to provide homes for those who can’t get into home ownership.

These were measures brought in by former chancellor George Osborne to quell the rising tide of buy-to-let and create more equilibrium that would allow first-time buyers a better chance of an affordable property.

In the 2015 Summer Budget, the former chancellor announced buy-to-let landlords are due to receive a lower rate of tax relief on mortgage payments - a flat rate of 20 per cent tax credit - under changes to the taxation of mortgage interest.