It was all go last week as the political parties made their final push towards the finish line, each leader presenting themselves as being the best option for the nation. The pollsters were convinced we would have a hung parliament and there was much debate as to which party would be ‘kingmaker’. Many believed we would be in for a Labour/SNP union that would have seen the end of austerity and a return to mass public spending. However, this was not to be, in a surprise turn; the Conservatives won it hands down – heads rolled as one by one the big hitters lost their seats, such as Ed Balls, Nigel Farage and Vince Cable.
Once the Conservative victory was ensured, the financial markets grew calmer and the pound increased in strength against the Euro, and the luxury property market saw a surge unlike any seen since the December budget of 2014. Fears about the mansion tax that threatened to propose a levy starting at £3000 on property worth over £2 million, were abated. Naturally, investors held off until Thursday’s result, unsure of what to expect should Labour form a government.
The outcome is that now we know that there will be no mansion tax or rent controls – two things which seemed to put the fear of god into both the owners of expensive property and landlords. West End estate agent, LDG have mentioned what else can we expect from the Conservatives when it comes to housing. We know that the party has two schemes to help younger first time buyers get on the property ladder: help-to-buy ‘ISAs’ and an extension of scheme until 2020; a promise to build 100,000 new homes on brownfield land at a 20% discount for under-40s, a pledge to build 200,000 houses per year; and of course the re-introduction of Margaret Thatcher’s right-to-buy scheme.
However, when it comes to house building, is this achievable? For decades councils have been very protective of land and often blocked building. Our housing crisis isn’t a result of one government’s bad policy; it’s the result of successive governments that year after year have failed to build the required number of houses. This is particularly true in London and the southeast where economic migration is more prominent, which, in turn; has seen both rents and prices double in the last 10 years.
The Conservative’s policy to help first-time buyers is a positive move; but if more houses aren’t built, quickly stocks will get lower and the population will increase, creating a problem that is unfixable. The only solution is to free up brownfield land and access parts of the greenbelt. This will infuriate the local NIMBY who has seen the value of his or her house rocket in the last decade and therefore feels protectionist but, as the old expression goes ‘you can’t keep all of the people happy 100% of the time’. It’s time to start looking out for younger families as well as ‘second steppers’. If the Conservative party can do that then they will access a whole new legion of voters and perhaps go on to win the next election.