Will building 200,000 houses a year help the property market?
The new Government is planning to build 200,000 houses a year, however it is worth noting that the number of houses being built a year hasn’t reached 200,000 since 1990, so these claims may be unreachable. It’s also worth noting that net migration is running at 300,000 persons per year or around 150,000 households, so even this target will barely keep pace with population expansion.
Many of the new homes are anticipated to come from within two schemes – “Help to Buy”, where first-time buyers will be able to purchase their home with a deposit of as little as 5%; and the “Starter Homes” scheme that allows first-time buyers under 40 to buy homes at just 20% of the market price and rent the remainder of the equity. The hope is that people will flock to use these schemes and boost the market.
Because land is hard to come by there are whispers of a tax for land banks, which would force house-builders to use their land instead of waiting for it to rise in value. Other practical initiatives would be a register of brown-field sites where development could take place without encroaching on the green belt.
The single biggest cost of a new house is the land it sits on. The Green Party suggested that where Councils own land then, by granting themselves permissions to develop, the cost of affordable new homes could be slashed. However, this idea does not appear to have been taken forward, and it only works if the homes are owned by the council and rented out, otherwise the advantage is lost as soon as the new owner sells on.
The bigger complication is that the average house price is set to increase by 23% in the next five years, which means the entire market will be under huge pressure – not least because people still aspire to be on the property ladder.
So affordability, not supply, may become the biggest obstacle for the public.