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Nov 6 2017

Time for a serious approach to housing

It's  getting to that time of year again when we look to the Treasury to  offer the plan for the next year of government spending. With the  budget's arrival imminent and due to be delivered on 22nd November, here's some wishful thinking!
The headline message  is that the government needs to take the housing situation far more  seriously. For the duration of several governments now, across the  political spectrum, housing has been severely neglected.  We need to build more houses, and frankly we've all been banging on  about this for years. It's time to forget about the bad record, and take  responsibility for getting houses built.
Any new housing  developments need to be a combination of owner-occupiers and social  housing, rather than overseas investment buying up new homes.  Particularly in London, we can see the contrast when a development  is dominated by owner-occupiers and social tenants versus overseas  investors, and frankly we need more of the community spirit that the  former scenario engenders.
Stamp Duty needs  serious review, and not just in London. Of course London is where the  negative effects of overzealous stamp duty are felt the most, but all  over the country, from first time buyers to the prime  market, every buyer has to foot a significant bill and in London even  the most modest properties attract a huge tax bill. For first-time  buyers we'd like to see stamp duty slashed.
Speaking of  first-time buyers, we also want mortgage companies to be encouraged to  take a more practical approach. Where an individual can show that they  have consistently paid rent and on time, this shows  the potential to pay a mortgage, and this would present far more people  with an opportunity to get onto the housing ladder. First-timers should  also have a better range of specific mortgage products to stimulate  growth in home ownership.
We need to encourage  home ownership right across the UK's varied population, as the pension  crisis is already looming. When retirement age is reached, what will  happen when many of our pensioners are still  living in rented homes?
Maybe it is time to  appoint a housing secretary to symbolise the significance of this area  of politics. The housing minister at present, Alok Sharma, has no  background in housing and no experience in this area.  Not to be rude, but surely we in the UK need an expert appointed who  has detailed knowledge and practical experience of the multitude of  complex housing issues if we are to ever realise a sensible housing  policy?

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