Originally posted on August 4 on Inside Edge 2, my blog for Inside Housing
Record low interest rates have been great for people with mortgages but terrible for the housing system as a whole.
Like the Bank of England’s decision in March 2009 to cut the base rate to 0.5%, Thursday’s further reduction to 0.25% is motivated by concern about the economy as a whole. But nobody imagined in 2009 that seven and a half years later interest rates would still be as low, still less even lower.
The result has been severe distortion in the housing market. What was only meant to be a temporary fix has instead become a semi-permanent feature of the system that has benefitted home owners and landlords at the expense of everyone else. The effect of Thursday’s small cut will be limited in itself but it means that effects of the low rate regime will be with us for much longer.
Originally published on June 24 on Inside Edge 2, my blog for Inside Housing
As the dust settles on the momentous vote for Brexit, the one certainty seems to be uncertainty.
I blogged last week about what would follow a Leave vote that seemed a possiblity but no more than that. Here’s my updated take on the likely consequences for housing now that it’s a reality.
The markets are signalling, no screaming, that they expect huge dislocation. Shares in leading housebuilders led the stock market plunge, with falls of 40% or more at one stage, and banks were not far behind with falls of 25%.
You could read this as a signal that the City expects house prices and land prices to fall with severe impacts for both – or as a reaction to panic and uncertainty.
Either way, there will be short-term consequences. Housebuilders look certain to scale back development, stop opening new sites and hold off on decisions to invest in land. Equally, few people will want to buy in a market that could be about to see prices fall and the wider market will stall.
Originally posted on June 13 on Inside Edge 2, my blog for Inside Housing
What should we do if we really want to reverse the decline in home ownership?
That’s the question posed in a new book published by centre right think tank Civitas (downloadable here). The answers are interesting and surprising, not just because of where it sits on the political spectrum, but also because the author is a longstanding evangelist for the home owning society and opponent of ‘Marxist’ housing advocates.
Peter Saunders wrote a seminal book called A Nation of Home Owners in 1990 that made a passionate argument for the expansion of home ownership as the choice of most people and as a force for good in promoting community cohesion and civic participation.
As such, you might have thought he’d be completely in tune with David Cameron, George Osborne and Brandon Lewis and their policies to satisfy the 86 per cent of us who want to be home owners.
Originally published on Inside Edge 2, my blog for Inside Housing
Back in 2010 a Conservative housing minister mused that a period of stable house prices would be a good thing. Six years later – and in the context of the European referendum – it would apparently be a disaster.
A report today from the Treasury warns that prices could be 10%-18% lower by 2018 if we vote for Brexit next month. It’s part of a message that a leave vote would trigger what David Cameron calls a DIY recession that would cost hundreds of thousands of jobs.
I’ll leave the wider economic arguments to others (though note this would be quite a mild recession by comparison with the recent past) and concentrate here on house prices. This may seem a minor point by comparison with the more general impact on the economy but it’s interesting that this was the aspect of today’s Treasury analysis that George Osborne chose to trail last week.
Originally published on February 25 on Inside Edge 2, my blog for Inside Housing
If the government provides Help to Buy for first-time buyers why not Help to Rent for homeless people?
A new campaign from Crisis says it is becoming harder and harder for homeless people to get a place to live because most landlords think it’s too risky to rent to them.
‘Home: No Less Will Do’ is supported by the leading private landlord associations and calls on ministers to give homeless people looking to rent the same kind of support as they offer first-time buyers and to introduce a Welsh-style homelessness prevention duty.
As things stand, they are caught in what Crisis calls the ‘homelessness trap’: the private rented sector may be their only hope of a home (especially if they are single) but they struggle with upfront costs; and welfare reforms are making landlords less likely to want to rent to them.
The potential consequences – and the timeliness of the campaign – are underlined in new figures published on Thursday showing that rough sleeping has risen by 30% in a year and has doubled since 2010.
Originally posted on February 16 on Inside Edge 2, my blog for Inside Housing
If you believe Brandon Lewis, the Help to Buy equity loan scheme is a resounding success: it’s helped thousands of people to buy a home who could not have done otherwise; and it’s done it without inflating house prices.
But does an external evaluation for the Department for Communities and Local Government back up his claims? The good news for the housing minister is the central verdict that 43% of homes built under Help to Buy were additional and would not have been built without the scheme. And the report certainly has a positive conclusion:
‘Overall, the scheme has met its objectives in terms of increased housing supply. It has done this via a stimulus to demand which has fed through into an expansion of supply and with little evidence of a serious and destabilising impact on house prices.’
But look a little deeper and there is plenty of ammunition for critics of the scheme too. Most obvious is the flipside of that headline figure: if 57% of Help to Buy homes would have been built anyway, is that really a good use of the £9.7bn that the scheme is set to cost by 2020?