15 April 2019

Housing a pawn in Tory Brexit leadership scrap

Former Housing Minister Dominic Raab has called for “radical” housing reforms in an attempt to help renters get on the housing ladder and increase the rate of home building.

Attacking the Conservative failure to stand up to developers and ensure the construction of enough homes to tackle the housing shortage, Raab advocated a new Help to Buy scheme that would exempt landlords from capital gains tax when they sell their property to existing tenants.

The leadership hopeful also identified the following solutions:

  • More government land to be released, with councils given more power to sell sites to smaller developers
  • Design by tender after outline planning permissions are received
  • Fewer impositions on councils who fail to get enough homes built
  • Scrapping stamp duty on homes worth less than £500,000
  • Digitise land registry records and support more modular housing

The National Federation of Builders (NFB) does not recall Dominic Raab voicing such policy proposals during his tenure as housing minister. This idea would have been worth hearing when he had a role shaping housing policy in the national interest, rather than when revealing his leadership ambitions on the back of embarrassingly drawn-out Brexit negotiations.

Richard Beresford, chief executive of the NFB, said: “I don’t remember Dominic Raab having any of these ideas when he was housing minister. The revolving door used to usher in a steady stream of housing ministers is unlikely to get any rest, so how likely is it that these ideas will be implemented?”

The House Builders Association (HBA), the house building division of the NFB, has criticised Help to Buy because it fuels demand far more than it provides a supply of homes.

Rico Wojtulewicz, head of housing and planning policy for the HBA, said: “While there is no silver bullet to the housing crisis, it will also not be solved with just the floating of a few ideas. We need consistency, detail and the inclusion of SME house builders at the beginning of policy discussions.”