Yesterday’s Budget speech didn’t include many dramatic new measures to boost the property sector but we certainly welcome the Chancellor’s first time buyers’ stamp duty abolition on shared ownership homes valued at up to £500,000. This is a good way to get normal working families into secure accommodation as an alternative to rent. With the huge increase in numbers of homes for sale and/or part ownership developed by housing associations, we see HAs very much as the developers of the future. With a red tape, tick-box-based planning system and some developers guilty of land banking sites to maintain prices – stimulus for social housing must be the answer to the housing crisis.
With the London property market cooling we also welcome the extension of the government’s ‘help to buy’ initiative, which supports many developers and ensures that UK purchasers can buy UK property – without that ability there is a serious risk of the remote or overseas landlord problem getting out of control. It is absolutely vital that we don’t alienate young buyers by pushing them out of our cities in favour of yields-driven landlords who overcrowd properties that were originally designed as family homes. The good news for renters and sharers is that increasingly there are quality, purposefully designed build-to-rent homes coming onto the market in pure rent environments. But accidental landlords – those who, say, rent out their batchelor pad – got no comfort yesterday as tax relief and claimable allowances continue to be phased out.
We hope that the promised £400M for schools will be in part directed into ‘fit for work’ measures. On a day-to-day basis at Ringley we remain challenged by the lack of employability skills in many of the youngsters we support. We estimate the employer burden on filling those gaps is costing us up to £3,500 per employee.
Having been an Ambassador for Apprenticeships from the start, we welcome the £695M to develop apprenticeships. However, we remain concerned and are working with training providers on a number of challenges, in particular the fact that we cannot truly offer to take apprentices through to degree level in some disciplines such as IT and that, for example, IT apprenticeships often reflect old technologies and need updating fast.
The budget did provide much-needed help for the retail property sector. Landlords of our beleaguered high streets and retail centres should be able to hold their rents and reduce the uncertainty of void units with the announcement that rates for small business are to be cut by 1/3rd over the next two years. This is a much-needed reduction and some relief from the pressures of a changing landscape and digitalisation, which falls particularly unequally on break-even small businesses. Not sure we are ready to open our lavatories to the entire general public quite yet though!
We hope that the money local councils will receive to revive their high streets will inspire creative thinking as the reason for having a town centre continues to shift. More on that soon…..