The rumbustious rhetoric of Boris Johnson since he took office has been Bojo podium gold.
But less convincing has been his interest in the ‘broken’ housing market, one of the key passions of Theresa May.
Johnson made no mention of it at all when speaking last week on the steps of Downing Street, and only a passing reference was made during his tub-thumping Commons debut.
“We will announce investment in vital infrastructure, fibre rollout, transport and housing that can improve people’s quality of life, fuel economic growth and provide opportunity,” he said.
The removal of Kit Malthouse and James Brokenshire from their posts within the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) also suggests an end to government focus on the sector; their replacements have no experience of the sector whatsoever. All hands, it would appear, are on decks to man the Brexit pumps.
To make the point, Robert Jenrick, who replaces Brokenshire, is a former corporate lawyer while his key minister and Malthouse replacement – Esther McVey – has worked in TV and also at the pensions and employment ministries, until now.
Faced with yet another set of housing ministers (there have been nine since the Conservatives took power in 2010) and a potential change in direction under Boris Johnson including a promised lowering of stamp duty rates, what does the industry want to say to Johnson?
“Providing no general election is to be called and the pound does not bounce, there is an overarching optimism that Boris Johnson’s proposed reforms will inject some life, and much needed momentum, back into the property market,” says Lisa Simon, Head of Residential, Carter Jonas.
“Brexit has continued to be something of a grey cloud that has loomed over the top end of the market for nigh on three years now and continues to be the driving force behind its instability, particularly in prime central London.
“Johnson has been vocal on being prepared to leave without a deal at the end of October, and the very thought of this has been an ongoing concern amongst our clients.”
“We are ever hopeful of a Boris bounce,” says David Galman, Sales Director at Galliard Homes. “If he is genuinely committed to kick starting the economy then he must address housing, as we are very much a barometer.
“The knock-on and trickle down into the rest of the economy is self-evident, we need clarity now on his proposals for stamp duty, the excessive 3% ‘second homes tax’ and the punitive high rates at the top of the market [which are] are the real reasons for a slowdown in our sector.”
“Boris Johnson has raised the prospect of a stamp duty cut to stimulate economic activity,” says Tom Bill, Head of Research at Knight Frank.
“Any impact on property prices is difficult to assess given the lack of detail and the potentially distortive effect on supply and demand. “However, higher stamp duty and political uncertainty have curbed activity above £1m over the last four years.”
“There have been a large number of consultations and important policy [announcements] over the past few years, all of which now require action; however, it’s not entirely clear how this can happen if a new minister is reshuffled as soon as they are in post long enough to understand their brief,” say David Cox, Chief Executive, ARLA Propertymark, and Mark Hayward, Chief Executive, NAEA Propertymark.
“It makes sense on the face of it to flip the responsibility of payment to the seller as they are the ones benefiting from the sale of a property and this could soon be the case should Boris push the initiative through,” says Alastair McKee, Managing Director of One 77 Mortgages.
“However, there are worries that this could dampen the enthusiasm of sellers to actually sell and could bring more detriment than benefit to the market.”
“Away from Brexit, the new Prime Minister must address the planning laws, which were implemented in the 1980s at a time when we expected the population to reduce rather than grow, if we want to deal with the supply and demand dynamic which has had such a massive impact on affordability,” says Joe Pepper, chief executive officer at tech firm tmgroup.
“I urge Boris to do all he can to encourage buyers and sellers to the market during this time, and to make sure that the UK can maintain its status as a homeownership democracy,” says Paul Smith, CEO of estate agency chain Haart.
“Boris Johnson has demonstrated his focus on housing previously through his team’s work when Mayor of London – which we hope he applies again to his wider national remit,” says Greg Hill, Deputy Chief Executive at Hill:
“Following through to implement the speculated stamp duty reductions would boost the sector.
“Robert Jenrick as the new Housing Secretary, provides optimism for the sector around implementing much-needed planning system efficiencies, such as the removal of red tape processes hindering the industry thus far.”
“It has been argued that one issue is insecurity in the private rented sector (as a result of Section 21) but the major causes of homelessness are welfare reforms, lack of social housing and growing affordability issues,” says Paul Shamplina of Landlord Action.
“Under-funded local councils can do little to make in-roads and prevent homelessness, which has a knock-on effect on the private rented sector, without sufficient funding.”
“Boris suggested raising the stamp duty limit to £500,000, which may increase transactions in London and the South East but could prove inflationary and reduce activity in less expensive areas as buyers seek to take maximum advantage,” says London agent Jeremy Leaf.
“One way of financing the changes would be to establish additional council tax bands and a revaluation which might generate more revenue, as well as creating a fairer system.”
“Last-time buyers in particular remain stuck in homes too large for their needs that are too costly to give up,” says Shaun Church, Director at broker Private Finance.
“We’re calling for a last-time buyer exemption to be included as part of Johnson’s stamp duty overhaul, encouraging empty nesters to downsize to homes more suited for their future needs, freeing up crucial housing stock for the wider property ladder.”
“The PRS plays a critical role in increasing and improving housing provision in the UK. Around 80% of private sector tenants are satisfied with their homes, which compares favourably with that in the social rented sector.
“This contribution has gone unrecognised: instead, landlords have been made convenient scapegoats for a housing crisis primarily caused by land-use planning restrictions and successive governments of all hues failing to build sufficient housing stock,” Tony Gimple, LessTaxForLandlords.