Response to the Conservatives’ 2024 manifesto – Thoughts from the Industry

In its manifesto launched today, the Conservative Party promises to deliver a record number of homes each year on brownfield land in urban areas by providing a fasttrack route through the planning system for new homes on previously developed land in the 20 largest cities, cutting Stamp Duty and commitments to improving the energy efficiency of homes in England. Here are some thoughts from within the property industry.

 

Simon Brown, CEO of Landmark Information Group, the UK’s largest source of property data provides the following comments on the announcements.

Home ownership

‘It’s encouraging to see commitment from the Conservatives – giving much-needed clarity of direction for the property industry and home-movers alike. Whilst cutting Stamp Duty Land Tax will go some way in temporarily stimulating housing demand and generating economic activity, there remain systemic issue with the home-moving process that must be addressed to prevent further stress and uncertainty. Siloed processes, insufficient digitalisation, and overburdened professionals are impacting the volume of completions. Our data shows that home-moves still take 123 days on average to complete – with inefficiencies across the transaction chain and leaving the property market susceptible to external shocks. A cross-market effort is needed to address this – with increased digitisation and information-sharing – to create a healthier property market that works for home movers.’

Planning

‘We welcome the scale of the Conservative’s ambitions, but they have a job on their hands to quickly get to grips with the UK’s intricate and often highly fragmented planning system. Any planning decisions should be rooted in granular data to identify hotspots of consumer demand and any potential bottlenecks to development.’

Sustainability

‘The UK’s built environment is responsible for around 40% of UK carbon emissions and 16% of these arise from our homes, due to the age of the UK’s housing stock and poor insulation. Despite this, sustainability and climate change issues relating to housing are too often overlooked – so it is encouraging to see steps being taken by the Conservatives to address this. There is an enormous amount still to be done to ensure that climate considerations are embedded into all facets of planning, purchasing and lending decisions to ensure a sustainable housing stock aligned with national Net Zero objectives.’

 

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the Federation of Master Builders commented: “Britain is currently experiencing a housing crisis, and the Conservative Party manifesto launch was an opportunity to set out a plan to deliver real change over the next five-years. The pledge to support smaller local builders, by requiring councils to set land aside for them, will be welcomed by FMB members, as will proposals to lift Section 106 requirements for smaller sites. However, if the housing crisis is to be successfully tackled reform of the planning system is urgently needed, something the Conservative Party has consistently failed to address.”

“The plan to build 1.6 million homes over the next five years, delivered through increased building on urban brownfield land, is positive, however it will remain insufficient to tackle the scale of the crisis the UK faces. The next government will need to go much further in delivering the homes that Britain needs. Earlier this year the FMB launched its own manifesto, Growth from the ground up, setting out a positive plan to boost the construction industry. The Conservative Manifesto was a missed opportunity to announce that they would launch a dedicated Housing Department in Whitehall, with a Secretary of State attending Cabinet, to ensure delivery is prioritised.”

“The construction sector is a key pillar of the UK economy, and a thriving construction industry is essential to delivering sustainable long-term economic growth. The next government will also need to tackle the ongoing construction skills crisis; support the rollout of energy efficiency upgrades to existing homes; introduce a scheme to set a minimum competency level for builders; and provide wider business support to SME construction firms facing a difficult economic climate. Delivering on these areas will be vital in delivering a brighter future for our country.”

 

Nathan Emerson, CEO at Propertymark comments:

“It is encouraging to see the Conservatives making commitment to consumers via proposals to overhaul the threshold for when Stamp Duty is applicable. Propertymark is keen to see homeownership be a workable proposition and not an aspect that is ever out of reach.

“It’s also encouraging to see strategies for the fast-track regeneration of brownfield sites and urban areas. However, Propertymark awaits further clarity on how any ‘Help to Buy’ scheme would assist first-time buyers when taking their steps onto the housing ladder. Ultimately, we need a fully robust supply of new sustainable housing that is keeping pace with an ever-growing demand.

“Any renewed ambition to pick back up on the Renters (Reform) Bill must come with full disclosure and a workable timeline regarding vital court reform before aspects such as Section 21 evictions can sensibly be abolished.”

 

Simon Gerrard, Managing Director of Martyn Gerrard Estate Agents, said:

“These proposals by the Conservatives are devoid of imagination and emblematic of a party that is completely out of ideas.

“Last night the Prime Minister admitted that it has become harder for younger people to get onto the housing ladder. Despite this, his proposals today are rehashed policies that have so far failed to solve this crisis and will do nothing to solve the problem. The overwhelming cause of our children having nowhere to live is the total dearth of new supply coming onto market. Pledging to build 1.6 million new homes is hardly reassuring after their abysmal failure to meet their previous housebuilding targets. They are also doubling down on protecting the greenbelt, which desperately needs to be unlocked for development given the skyrocketing population growth in London. Meanwhile, there is nothing included to solve the nightmare of planning which has decimated building in this country.

“Reviving Help to Buy is a good idea – but it is ultimately meaningless if there are no homes to buy. Further, lowering the loan-to-value and purchase thresholds in London from £450,000 to £400,000 this time is perplexing given how much property prices have appreciated since the last scheme was launched. Offering watered-down, rehashed versions of previous policies is not going to solve the crisis we face.

“The same goes for the pledge to permanently scrap stamp duty for first-time buyers of properties up to £425,000. This isn’t a bad idea, but it simply doesn’t go far enough. The stamp duty system in the country isn’t fit for purpose by preventing transactions, jamming the market and disincentivising older people from downsizing homes. If the Government reformed stamp duty to encourage downsizers, then there would be more properties suitable for young families on the market, which are also desperately needed. The tax needs a complete revamp not more tinkering around the sides.

 

Alun Williams, partner at city law firm Spector Constant & Williams said: “The announcement of a fast track planning system in the largest 20 cities, will ultimately come down to the detail. My initial perception however is that the Conservatives have adopted a sticking plaster approach to a system than needs major surgery.”

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