Government should do more with empty homes

In its latest Generation Rent report published this morning, Halifax surveyed 40,000 20-45 year olds and 4,000 parents with children aged between 20-45 years old.

It found that while the majority backed Conservative housing policy overall, the most popular policy promised in the run up to the general election earlier this month was a Liberal Democrat policy to tackle empty housing stock.

Overwhelmingly young people want the government to focus on increasing the supply of housing – whether through building new housing stock or allowing local communities to refurbish empty homes and get them back on the market or making them available for rent.

Other popular policies included the Conservative proposals to launch a new Rent to Buy scheme and a new Right to Buy scheme.

As a demand side policy the new Right to Buy scheme has received a mixed reception to date, but more than half (54%) the young people surveyed in the Generation Rent Report thought it would be of benefit to getting more people on the housing ladder.

Craig McKinlay, mortgages director at Halifax, said: “Housing was a major issue during the general election campaign and political parties of all hues acknowledged that more needs to be done to help first-time buyers.

“However, this now needs to translate into concrete plans during the next parliament. By taking the most beneficial cross party policy positions according to 20-45 year olds, the Generation Rent Report has created the ideal policy package.”

Earlier this year the independent Commission on Housing identified that the UK needs to deliver at least 2 million homes by 2025 to meet demand.

McKinlay added: “Getting empty homes back on the market and tackling the shortfall in housebuilding needs to be a political priority and requires a long-term commitment if it’s to address the shortage of supply.”

In the first two years of the Help to Buy: Equity Loan Scheme (to 31 March 2015), 47,018 properties were bought with an equity loan.

The Generation Rent Report 2015 found more than half of 20-45 year olds (53%) think the current Help to Buy schemes have had a positive impact, compared with 8% who think it has had a negative effect, and 39% who don’t know or are undecided.

As such, the Conservative party proposal to extend the Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme for new build homes until at least 2020 was popular among first-time buyers with 56% expressing approval.

McKinlay added: “The fact that 39% either don’t know or are undecided demonstrates that more work is needed to educate people as to the benefits and how the schemes work.

“For our part we will continue to promote and provide these products.”