Three key ways Keir Starmer's new Government can reform our failing housing market: Tom Simpson

In the UK, there are not enough homes available to rent or buy, and those being built aren’t fulfilling demand. Statistics show the housing supply in England amounted to 234,400 additional dwellings in 2022-23 – short of the last Government’s target of building 300,000 homes per year.

Our Home Truths report, published last year, found that 78 per cent of prospective first-time buyers we surveyed believed that homebuying was becoming an elite privilege – and demonstrates that this shortage is pushing up house prices.

Now that we have a new government – we need joined up thinking and meaningful action – in contrast to piecemeal measures over the last few years. The housing market needs innovation and strategic reform.

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There are three key aspects to this. Firstly, creating an environment which encourages investment in quality building and development, secondly facilitating the speed at which this happens, and finally, by thinking differently to capitalise on opportunities that exist.

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer at the launch of a new Freedom to Buy scheme with deputy party leader Angela Rayner and London Mayor Sadiq Khan during a visit to a housing development in North West London, while on the General Election campaign trail. Picture: James Manning/PA WireLabour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer at the launch of a new Freedom to Buy scheme with deputy party leader Angela Rayner and London Mayor Sadiq Khan during a visit to a housing development in North West London, while on the General Election campaign trail. Picture: James Manning/PA Wire
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer at the launch of a new Freedom to Buy scheme with deputy party leader Angela Rayner and London Mayor Sadiq Khan during a visit to a housing development in North West London, while on the General Election campaign trail. Picture: James Manning/PA Wire

This strategy would need to be carried out in the right way, starting with the new government encouraging the creation of the right kind of quality well designed housing which meets regulations, and could be facilitated by incentivising developers and landlords to build and provide properties of a high standard.

For example – reintroducing mortgage interest relief for landlords who provide properties which meet certain standards, motivating people to ‘do the right thing’ and discouraging corner-cutting.

Having decent quality homes – both for homebuyers and tenants - is so important. Our Home Truths report showed that landlords are providing a service for vulnerable groups – including those with disabilities – so it’s essential to protect them.

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The second aspect will require well thought through planning reforms to allow investment to happen quickly and smoothly, allowing properties to be built where needed, but also to use existing stock to be converted into homes - without lots of red tape.

And finally, we will need creativity and vision - take the opportunity afforded by empty commercial property. Office and retail space in West Yorkshire accounts for a massive 4.6 million square footage of unused space.

This could be turned into roughly 6,600 two-bedroom houses or flats.

Alongside the potential for increased supply to bring down house prices, facilitating building, and converting existing empty space into homes, has the positive effect of local job creation, stimulating the local economy and improving the prospects of the area.

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At YBS Commercial Mortgages, we believe that innovative and joined-up change is needed, and this is just one of several ideas we have. We are asking the new government to look at what’s already out there with fresh eyes.

This is something we’re supporting as a business - we’ve recently approved the long-term buy-to-let funding for a former Victorian school, newly developed into 14 houses and three flats, and have a strong desire to support this kind of lending - including in our Yorkshire heartland.

We are asking the government to step up and provide new incentives and schemes, encouraging developers to ensure that buildings - and their conversion – meets the mark, providing desperately needed quality housing, now, and into the future.

Tom Simpson is Director of YBS Commercial Mortgages

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