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Under the skin of the letting market

Here we share news and views on both the local letting market in & around Oxfordshire and all planned and recent legislation.

The Housing Minister’s first speech

So Grant Shapps made his maiden public speech last night at RICS (the surveyor’s trade body).

The speech seems to be long on rhetoric but short on detail. Perhaps that is inevitable at this stage.

Some thoughts:

1. The ‘Age of Aspiration’ is the slick phrase which came forth, alongside Shapps’ belief that everyone has the right to buy a home. This seems to go back to 1980s territory and will surprise nobody: you can hardly imagine an politician saying they don’t want people to be able to buy their own homes.

2. Plans were announced to “scrap Regional Spatial Strategies and housing targets”. This is big news. For context the planning policy in Oxfordshire is guided by the South East Plan. It took 6 years (honestly) for the Government to write it (in consultation with many stakeholders) and it defines the new build housing targets for each part of the South East of England. From this the local council takes its planning policy.  In Oxfordshire’s case this is currently 40,680 new homes in ‘Central Oxfordshire’ by 2020.

The South East Plan also outlines the policy that the Oxford greenbelt might need to be built on. This is apparently a subject of much debate by the interested parties currently.

The result: scrapping the dominant planning policy for the region would be a big deal. A big big deal.

What is in its place?

Its hard to tell based on last night’s speech, but linking with the Big Society vision outlined in the election, Shapps said:

“”Rather than being told what to build and where, residents of villages, towns and cities will be able to develop their own vision for their place. We’ll introduce Local Housing Trusts, enabling communities to create new housing for local people”

Watch this space. Interesting. How will a bottom-up approach work when the main stakeholders in Oxfordshire have a tendency to differ greatly?

3. Mr Shapps also seemed to say that a national database of landlords will NOT happen. This was one of the key recommendations of the Rugg Review of Private Rented Sector Housing. The proposed database has roused the ire of the lobby groups such as the National Landlord’s Association.

Our view is that a national database was always unlikely. Just the pragmatics of a “national database” are frightening and the Government (labour or coalition) has little track record in large database projects.

This does leave quite a major question, as the Guardian reports ( what is the Govt. going to do about unethical / fraudulent landlords?

4. The speech indicates that the Govt. will not be putting more £££ into affordable/shared ownership housing, and that the private sector needs to contribute. This is hardly news for Oxfordshire where already developers are required to make large percentages of their new stock available for affordable ownership.

5. Stamp duty: some noise but no news. Many commentators feel that stamp duty on house purchases will only go up, not down, despite how unpopular it is. One option after the 22nd June budget is a 5% levy on houses over £1m.

So: some big news and quite a few ‘watch this space’ issues.

We’ll keep our ears to the ground for you.