Property industry criticises Chancellor's 'absence of support' in Spring Budget

"Ignoring the housing crisis is a catastrophic misstep for Tories"

Property industry criticises Chancellor's 'absence of support' in Spring Budget

Delivering his Spring Budget, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt talked about inflation and avoiding recession, the Energy Price Guarantee, investment zones, corporation tax, environmental sustainability, and government-funded benefits, among other matters.

But by the end of his 55-minute speech, some experts in the property industry were left wondering why issues in the housing and property sectors were apparently overlooked.

Jonathan Stinton, head of intermediary relationships at Coventry Building Society, remarked that it was a budget where homebuyers were forgotten.

“The Chancellor’s had a lot of pressure to help those struggling with the cost-of-living, while avoiding a repeat of the events in September, but that doesn’t mean support for homebuyers should be ignored,” Stinton said.

“The government can’t singlehandedly erase all the challenges homebuyers are facing, but they can certainly play their part. Even something as small as making the new Stamp Duty thresholds permanent would have been a bonus, but to see nothing is incredibly disappointing.”

Richard Fearon, chief executive at Leeds Building Society, also expressed disappointment that there was no commitment to increasing housing supply in Hunt’s Budget announcement.

“We welcome this Budget as an effort to return sound economics to the heart of government and provide a plan for growth,” he said. “It is, however, a missed opportunity to grow the economy by addressing the UK’s home ownership crisis , caused by a lack of housing and show support for savers.

“While it is particularly positive to see support for families with young children struggling with the cost of childcare, we know that owning your own home also brings huge economic, education and health benefits.

“With the affordability of home ownership now at its worst point for 150 years, it is clear that support for first-time buyers must be a key battleground at the next general election.”

For Ben Woolman, director at property firm Woolbro Group, ignoring the housing crisis was a “catastrophic misstep for Tories.”

“The bewildering absence of support for first-time buyers and the property sector is a catastrophic misstep for the Tories, which could cost them in the next general election,” he stressed. “The government is fully aware that it is more difficult than ever to get onto the property ladder, yet its inaction is paving the way for a potentially devastating defeat at the next general election — and the opposition knows this.

“To stand any chance of winning over the votes of first-time buyers, it must start taking the housing crisis seriously. An obvious and overdue starting point is to replace the Help to Buy scheme, which helped hundreds of thousands of first-time buyers onto the property ladder.

“Secondly, it must renege on plans to make housing targets for advisory only, ensuring that underperforming planning authorities are held to account when they fail to hit targets. Lastly, and most importantly, it must bring planning reform back onto the table.”

Chris Hodgkinson, managing director at property purchasing specialist House Buyer Bureau, commented that the property market has been treading water since last September’s shambolic mini budget.

“We were looking to the spring statement for a shot in the arm that would reignite the furnaces of buyer demand and help negate any prolonged period of subdued activity,” Hodgkinson added. “Unfortunately, this hasn’t materialised, and the nation’s homebuyers have been shown the cold shoulder once again.

“While we expect the market to hold fairly firm over the coming year, it’s extremely unlikely that house prices will now rally, and the pandemic highs of previous years will be resigned to the record books.”

Paresh Raja, chief executive at specialist lender Market Financial Solutions, said that while it was no secret that there were issues requiring attention in the property sector, the property market could benefit from the Chancellor’s prudent economic approach.

“While there may not have been any noteworthy policies or investments relating specifically to property, his efforts to combat the cost-of-living crisis and bring much-needed stability to the economy should be welcomed,” Raja continued.

“We saw how tumultuous the effects of the mini budget were back in September. The ill-fated announcement fuelled significant interest rate changes and a great deal of uncertainty. Hunt has favoured a cautious approach, and the property market will likely benefit from a sense of economic calm, particularly if inflation continues to fall and interest rate hikes come to an end.”

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