The question of whether we will be living under a red or blue, or a mixture of both, Government will soon be known. How this will affect the new build market is also unknown and has created some uncertainty.
So what is likely to happen going forward, depending of course, on who lands up as the governing force.
The Conservative Party has committed to build 200,000 starter homes (built for first time buyers aged under 40 with a 20% discount) and 275,000 affordable homes by 2020. Relatively small numbers and it is no clear whether the latter is in addition to the 200,000 starter homes. The Labour Party is also looking to build a similar number of starter homes by 2020 and has committed to the establishment of a Future Homes Fund for investment in increasing housing supply.
It has similarities with the Liberal Democrats idea of a Government backed Housing Investment Bank to provide long term capital for major new settlements and to help attract finance. The new home start figure for the Liberal Democrats is set higher at 300,000 each year. They also commit to set in motion at least ten new Garden Cities.
Looking to make it easier for those looking for a home in the area in which they live is high on the priority list for Labour and they have promised to give priority to local first-time buyers in new housing areas.
In an effort to encourage owners of empty properties to sell Labour will be looking to allow local authorities to charge higher council tax on empty house. The Conservatives have outlined plans to unlock and allow development on certain brownfield sites to enable 400,000 new homes to be built. Again it’s unclear whether this is an addition to the 200,000 new starter homes and 275,000 affordable homes.
This is all well and good and shows a broad acceptance across the parties of the need to build more new houses and to make these affordable to those looking to get on the property ladder. The numbers proposed are however relatively small and do not meet ( apart from the Liberal Democrats) the 250,000 new homes each year that some commentators consider to the correct number to keep up with demand. The truth is that we have never come close to this figure and as long as we fall behind with development economic recovery will remain volatile, rents will continue to rise and the cost of buying a property and keeping hold of it will remain an issue for many. People on ordinary incomes should be able to buy or rent a high quality home at a price they can afford today, and have confidence they will be able to afford tomorrow.
The major problem which none of the main political parties have so far fully addressed is the lack of competition in the new build market. By 2012 70% of new homes were built by large house building concerns. This is not surprising when land is so expensive and only the larger developers can afford to purchase. The issue is that they all approach development in the same way, that is to minimise build cost and maximise sale prices by releasing homes slowly. If there is a downturn in the market they reduce output and this contributes to a deepening of the problem. So what happens is that output only increases when there is an acceptable level of house price inflation.