General Election Comment

June 9, 2017

I doubt there is anyone who can say they are happy with the result of yesterday’s General Election. Over the last few weeks, business has been affected by the uncertainty an election brings and this result simply extends the period making it harder for people plan their immediate future. Of course, as Brexit negotiations loom, this feeling is compounded more than usual leaving everyone in a state of inertia.

I think everyone, regardless of the result of the vote, would have at least settled for the much promised stability of a new Government. We have been denied this promise and it’s not impossible that we could be having another election before the end of the year.

With the lack of cohesive housing policy, the fact no party has an outright majority at least leaves the door open for some cross party discussion in fixing what is wrong with housing.

The Stamp Duty Land Tax reforms have failed and need urgent review. More houses need to be built as the Private Rented Sector (PRS) has been under attack making investment less appealing. The proposed ban on tenant fees needs clarity and a timetable so businesses can properly plan their business models. The effect of recent tax changes to landlords income is starting to filter through and again should be revisited. With the resultant weakened pound, overseas investors may see UK plc as a great place to invest in residential property driving out many home grown buyers.

As another housing minister bites the dust, a ministerial shake up is inevitable. Let’s hope they appoint someone who understands the housing market and its challenges and who will properly engage with industry experts but also has sufficient longevity in the role to make a difference. The fact Housing Ministers change more frequently than the weather and that it is no longer a cabinet post implies to me that Government doesn’t see housing as a priority. I record with disbelief that Transport, Media and Sport feature in cabinet posts, but not housing.

What seems to have been lost in this election is this focus on housing issues. Housing is so fundamental to everyone, it transcends political persuasions and is such a critical problem that it needs to be addressed now.  Soundbites to curry favour with voters is simply not good enough. The PRS needs a strategy and workable solutions.

I remain confident that investing in property remains one of the best options for investors especially at a time of such low interest rates. Such investments when viewed long term offer good yields as well as capital growth and there is no doubt the increasing number of renters need more quality housing. Even in an uncertain world, we need more homes, higher standards of housing with security of tenure and a properly regulated industry with effective enforcement.

In my opinion, politicians of all persuasions have spectacularly failed to address the housing problem and it’s time they started listening the myriad of immensely clever people who work within the industry.

Eric Walker, MD, Northwood

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