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A “been there, done it and got the T-shirt" Budget

Mark Posniak Mark Posniak
Posted on Nov 23, 2017 | in Blog

Once you cut through the spin, this week's Budget came in much as expected — in relation to property, at least. 

The Stamp Duty boost for first time buyers, which had been leaked well in advance, stole the headlines but whether it actually helps them much in practice remains to be seen. The financial win is marginal compared to the average deposit size, but anything that helps first time buyers is always good PR.

Also central to the speech, as expected, was the Government's intention to get the country building more homes - and the Chancellor announced a number of measures, guarantees and capital funding initiatives to this end.

But countless Chancellors have announced countless similar grand housebuilding plans over the years. As a result, my immediate impression was that I'd been there and got the T-shirt already. I'm sure many others feel the same. 

So what were the plans this time round? Well the headline figure through which the Government will ignite UK housebuilding was £44bn. The net result of this massive cash injection will apparently be 300,000 homes being built each year by the mid-2020s.

For me, though, the goal of 300,000 new dwellings hardly sets the world alight if you consider that 217,350 homes were created in 2016-17 according to official figures published last week. Especially with so many billions being thrown into play.

If anything, the tone of the budget mattered more than the numbers. It was the little announcements such as enabling councils to charge 100% extra council tax on empty homes that were more symbolic for me. 

Equally, the clampdown on the practice of land banking by the biggest developers shows the tide is starting to turn. Building more homes is no longer necessary, the Government is saying, it is essential, and that change in outlook shows through.

The irony, however, is that housebuilding in the UK today has never been healthier. Development projects are being started at a rate of knots and it's the small and mid-sized developers that are driving them.

One day, even if I’m not around by then, we will solve the housing crisis but it's almost certainly going to be by dint of long-term market forces than the initiatives proposed by yet another short-term Government. 

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