The affordability and quality of housing will only get better if policy makers prioritise long-term outcomes and de-prioritise politics and vested interests, experts from Cambridge University Land Society (CULS) say.
A new paper from The Whitehall Group – ‘A vision for the UK housing market’, written by Anna Clare Harper and Emma Fletcher – a forum of CULS, says vested interests make the formulation and implementation of housing policy ‘a hazardous and difficult task’.
Some 14% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions come from UK homes and 98% of the homes we will use in five years’ time already exist, the paper says.
Recommendations include aligning housing policy timeframes with the goal of Net Zero 2050, since the two are closely interlinked. This would help avoid the kind of policy turbulence that has been experienced as a result of eight secretaries of state and 10 ministers responsible for housing since 2018.
A key aim is to ensure people have the right housing for their age and stage of life.
Policy suggestions to achieve this objective include incentivising redistribution – for example, encouraging the 3.6m homeowners aged over 65 with more than two spare bedrooms to consider downsizing.
Since this could be resented by older, income-poor people in larger dwellings, the paper considers ways to sugar the pill, such as offering practical support for moving, waving stamp duty for downsizers reducing the size of their property by two bedrooms or more, and ensuring there is a supply of more suitable dwellings for this demographic in all areas.
Moving away from archaic terms such as ‘landlord’ and ‘tenant’ towards ‘property owner’ and ‘resident’ is one of many suggestions, including incentivising longer leases to enable residents to put down roots and invest in their communities, encouraging lenders to offer discounted mortgages to property owners offering longer tenancies, and tax breaks to those property owners.
Dame Kate Barker, former member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee, writing the foreword to the paper, says: “The issues of supply and distribution of space will be familiar to all those reflecting on housing problems, adding in quality and the increasingly urgent problem of energy efficiency gives this paper extra bite.
“The overriding proposal is for more joined-up and coherent housing policy.
“This should run wider than just not changing housing ministers frequently, but also engage HM Treasury and financial regulators.
“Only then could we achieve the goal of defining, and moving towards, housing market success.”
Read the full paper HERE.