Friday, 18 February 2011

Housing Summit - No room for lawyers?

Interesting that the one absent party from the summit meeting on what should be done to help first time buyers, held and chaired by Housing Minister Grant Shapps on 15th  of this month, was  a representative of the legal profession.   

The meeting was attended by ‘leading industry figures’ representing home builders lenders, councils and consumers.   Perhaps the Housing Minister, who of late has been preoccupied with television and radio appearances in his capacity as Local Government Minister, does not regard housing lawyers as having thoughts and ideas on what can be done to help our first time buyers. Perhaps it was a case of a simple oversight.

Yes, I know it may be more to do with availability of lower cost housing, and more affordable lending schemes, but there is clearly room for improvement in the conveyancing process that could be introduced to simplify and make less expensive the cost of purchasing.  

Lawyers working in the residential sales and purchase market day in day out know that the process of buying a property is broken and full of unnecessary form filling and other bureaucracy.   If as Mr Shapps claims there is need for all of the players in the industry to pull more closely together then clearly it is important to ensure that he has present representatives from all relevant sectors.   

Housing Minister Grant Shapps said:

"I called on key figures from across industry to come together today, because we must do more to help aspiring first time buyers - the average age of the first time buyer with no support from their family is now 37, and there are 1.4 million households who aspire to own a home but are simply unable to do so because of house prices and mortgage availability.

"I wanted to hear a first-hand account of the problems the sector faces, but I also wanted to knock heads together so the needs of young people who want to buy a home are put first. The Government is working with industry to improve the availability of mortgages - but there also needs to be a much more unified effort from across the board to work together, so we can ensure that young people are not locked out of the housing market."

Good rhetoric, and good intentions, but how long does it take a Government to conclude discussions with lenders on increasing the availability of lending, and although I agree there needs to be improved communication between the various ‘players’, the time for action is now and  perhaps less talking and more positive action is the key to this problem.

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