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Government repeats pledge to support home ownership in Queen’s Speech

Unspecific measures on home ownership accompanied announcements on planning as part of the Queen’s Speech this week, as the government repeated it’s pledge to support declining home ownership.

Home ownership has reduced to 63% of households, from a previous high of 70%. And while the government missed it’s targets on housebuilding by 25% last year, some commentators have accused them of letting planning slip further down the agenda, despite the announcement of measures to streamline the process.

Addressing the House of Lords, the Queen said: “My government will support aspiration and promote homeownership through its commitment to build a million new homes.
“Following last week’s Anti-Corruption Summit in London, legislation will be introduced to tackle corruption,money laundering and tax evasion.”

Continuing: “Measures will be introduced to help the lowest-income families save, through a new Help to Save scheme, and to create a Lifetime ISA to help young people save for the long-term.”
Jeremy Corbyn MP responded: “The government claims to aspire to building a million new homes. The reality is that housebuilding has reached its lowest levels since the 1920s.”

The Lifetime ISA proposals have previously been announced as an extension of the help-to-buy ISA to those under 40 looking to save, with a further bonus to be awarded.

Other proposals include the Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill (England and Wales) which aims to streamline pre-commencement planning conditions to speed up housing developments and to enable local communities to have more say over neighbourhood planning. It also includes the consultation on plans to privatise Land Registry.

Beth Rudolf, Director of Delivery at the Conveyancing Association said: “The Queen’s Speech has plenty in therefor the property industry, from faster broadband for all effectively lifting concerns over the perceived blight on properties in poor internet areas (a recent report indicated that parts of rural Devon would become ghost towns by 2020 as the IT generation will not move to areas without a fast broadband connection), to the Law of Property Bill which is set to simplify land ownership.

“We hope that the Law of Property Bill will be an opportunity for the Government to enact the changes required to improve the home moving process. For example, closing the loop hole which means there is no route for redress for home movers around unreasonable fees and delays when dealing with lease administrators. On average these issues lead to an additional four weeks involved in the sale of Leasehold property. Given that 260,000 leasehold transaction take place every year this impacts over 500,000 home movers every year and that does not even take into account those involved in chains with leasehold property.

“The proposed changes to planning law will also be welcome though there are concerns at local communities having more say as this could lead to more NIMBY-ism placing further restrictions on the development of new housing stock.

“We are also delighted to see there are plans to grant more powers for the recovery of proceeds of crime; one of things we discovered whilst researching for our Cyber Safe scheme was how difficult it is for home movers to recover deposits sent to a criminals account after a fraudster scams a buyer into redirecting their deposit. We would of course still urge home movers to treat any emails relating to bank details purporting to be from their conveyancer with suspicion and to call their conveyancers on a known and trusted phone number as well as to be careful about posting updates on social media which might tip off criminals.

“Overall, we look forward to consulting with the Government on their plans to ensure that the changes reflect a common sense approach and lead to a positive home moving process for all.”
Jeremy Blackburn, the head of UK Policy at the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors said of the housing plans:”Together, these changes will address delays in planning, give power to local communities and will accelerate the construction of new homes and infrastructure once planning permission has been granted.”

Andrew Bridges, managing director of Stirling Ackroyd said: “Today, planning has been pushed down the agenda.Millions of people across the country see housing as one of the most difficult day-to-day problems affecting their lives. Acknowledging the role of the planning process in delaying new homes progress is a crucial first step. But planning hasn’t been prioritised as it should be.
“Planning delays are a real obstacle approvals for new homes dropped 64% year-on-year in Q1 2016 in London. Ministers need to face up to the fact that this could continue if real change isn’t enacted and quickly.”Tackling rigid planning practices is no easy task, and this could usher in a new commitment to deal with planning delays. Alone, these plans might not be enough to reverse the fortunes of London’s housing deficit, but some acceptance of the issues is at least a concrete starting point.”

Charles Holland, Head of Residential Development and Investment at Marsh & Parsons, said: “As homeownership plummets to just 63% of the population from nearly 70% a few years ago, it’s vital that the development community is encouraged to build more property in London. Significantly increasing the supply of new homes will enable house prices to remain steady rather than becoming more out of reach for first-time buyers. Reports that Sadiq Khan intends to appoint a councillor from Islington as his deputy mayor, who has a history of blocking developments lacking proportionately higher levels of affordable or social housing, is a concern for the capital and could well be counter-productive in achieving his aim of lower value homes being built.

“We welcome the idea of greater affordability for the city’s young professionals but to insist that all developments in London must provide 50% affordable housing will have a significant negative impact on land values, which will result in landowners considering alternate uses or withholding the release of land completely.For land already acquired by developers / house builders, the new 50% affordable housing requirement will render the majority of new-build projects unviable, thereby stemming the flow of much needed supply. Simply,there can’t be a one-rule-fits-all approach for such a diverse city, and the mayor and his housing chief must be careful not to stymie house building in London if they hope to reach their ambitious target of delivering 50,000 new homes each year.”

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