The Autumn Statement fails to deliver WhatHouse? readers’ wishlist

Posted 14 December 2016 by Ben Salisbury

The latest WhatHouse? survey reveals our readers were disappointed with the Autumn Statement and its impact on housing especially the silence on stamp duty

Following on from our comprehensive WhatHouse? readers survey on what the government’s future housing policy should be, the details from the recent Autumn Statement may have left many disappointed.

The headline figures from our latest survey on reaction to the housing policy measures announced in the Autumn Statement reveal that just 12% think it is easier to buy a new home after Hammond's measures than before. 56% think it would be the same level of difficulty, while 32% think it will be harder. 77% of our readers that completed the survey did not think there was enough support for building new homes and the same number felt that the affordable homes package announced in the Autumn Statement should include homes that are for sale rather than rent.

Stamp duty, for instance, wasn’t mentioned at all. As the dust continues to settle on the Chancellor’s speech, we look again at some of the issues raised by our survey, the speech itself and how the government can improve a property market that’s increasingly difficult for first-time buyers.

What our readers were looking for

Taken a week before the Autumn Statement was delivered, our survey showed 61% of those questioned wanted Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) abolished. As it was, SDLT wasn’t part of the Chancellor’s speech at all. It left many believing this first Autumn Statement by the new Chancellor was a missed opportunity. It’s easy to see why our readers want SDLT abolished. It’s just one of many additional costs homebuyers need to find. 

Figures released by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) revealed property taxes make up 12.7% of the total tax burden in the UK. This is higher than anywhere else in the developed world and more than double the average of the 35 OECD member countries.

SDLT, in particular, is seen as an unnecessary financial cost, particularly for first-time buyers. SDLT means a first-time buyer purchasing a house worth £200,000 would pay £1,500. A relatively small amount perhaps, but still a significant extra payment amongst the many extra costs which have to be found.

There were some measures taken by the Chancellor that did indeed reflect our readers’ survey wishes. The Chancellor announced further support for Help to Buy, a policy that just 7% of our readers wanted to see abolished. There were changes announced to relax planning restrictions to allow more variety in the type of new houses being built, which 22% of our readers said was a high priority.

Elsewhere, there was more money for housebuilding overall with the Chancellor announcing a new £2.3bn Housing Infrastructure Fund, designed to support the construction of up to 100,000 new homes. There was also £1.4bn announced to build 40,000 affordable new build properties. The government has previously said it aims to build one million new houses by 2020.

For many within the industry, there remains a difference between what the government has promised and what they can actually deliver. Carl Dyer, Head of Planning at law firm Irwin Mitchell, said the current rate of construction means the government would be, at least, 300,000 new homes short of their target. Many also point out that £1.4bn for 40,000 new houses is a welcome investment yet only equates to around £35,000 for each property.

Measures such as allowing councils to borrow money to build new homes, mentioned by 25% in our survey as being a good move, is one example of how the government could do more. For now, our readers as well as the industry overall will need to wait for more details on how the government will tackle the housing crisis. This should be clearer by the end of January 2017 by which time the government’s Housing White Paper is expected to be published.  

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