Yesterday saw Boris Johnson win the race to be the next Conservative leader, and PM of the UK, by a significant margin. In reality this was a “done deal” some time ago although Jeremy Hunt did make some progress in recent weeks. It is fair to say Boris Johnson will be a Marmite type Prime Minister for the UK – you either love him or loathe him. However, initial feedback from the UK housebuilding/property sector has been broadly optimistic with some experts fairly positive.
Boris’s opinion of UK housing market
Boris Johnson has made a number of comments of late regarding the UK housing market and potential changes he would bring in. The first thing to say is that when he was Mayor of London he tended to delegate housing policy to a very tightknit and well-managed team. There is already talk of a new housing secretary and minister for housing which would indicate yet more delegation going forward. Industry views are mixed regarding delegation but with Brexit on the horizon this may turn out to be the best option for now.
Some of Boris’s other well-known opinions include:-
- No imposed affordable housing numbers for new developments
One issue which would put him at loggerheads with the Labour Party is a reluctance to impose a strict quota on the number of affordable houses in future new developments. This will go down well with developers but not so well with Labour Party supporters.
- Pro-home ownership
It is also common knowledge that Boris Johnson is very pro-homeownership and will likely undertake a number of new policies to encourage this. One issue which has been discussed in recent weeks is an extension of the right to buy scheme which has been as controversial as it has been welcomed in many quarters.
- No to rent controls
Sadiq Khan, the current Mayor of London, has been very vocal of late with regards to rent controls in the capital. It looks as though this will place him at loggerheads with the new Prime Minister who has historically been against rent controls. In general, it is common knowledge that Boris Johnson is not a supporter of excessive regulation of the UK housing/property sector. Could we be moving towards a true “free market” approach?
- Reduced stamp duty
One thing almost certain to happen in the first few weeks/months of Boris’s reign is a reversal of recent stamp duty increases. This should have a more profound impact on the London property market which is currently under pressure and struggling. While this may reduce government tax income it would encourage greater activity right across the UK housing sector.
- Remove housing sector from parliamentary control
One potentially radical policy which may emerge in the coming weeks and months is a removal of the housing sector from parliamentary control. For many years there have been serious concerns that the UK housing sector has become something of a “political football” with a swing to the left under Labour and a swing to the right under the Conservatives. This constant flip-flopping of policies has done nothing to stabilise markets in the short to medium term. It may be radical, it may be outside of the box thinking, but moving UK housing policy to an independent body could be just what the doctor ordered.
At this moment in time it is fair to say that Brexit is grabbing the headlines and will be the main focus for Boris Johnson and his new team of ministers. That said, the UK housing sector is in need of significant assistance with new build numbers falling well behind demand. During the final months of her tenure Theresa May seemed to instigate something of a lurch to the left with regards to housing policy. There are various new regulations going through Parliament which will strengthen the hand of tenants while reducing protection historically afforded to landlords. Might these now be cancelled or kicked into the long grass?
It is fair to say that opinion is mixed within property circles but compared to the previous PM’s recent attack on the housing/property sector things can only get better. Will Boris Johnson pull a few rabbits out of the hat?