Why we can’t let Brexit overshadow the housing crisis

Long pinned as the favourite to succeed Theresa May as Prime Minister, it came as little surprise that Boris Johnson was announced as the new Conservative Party leader.

Boris Johnson 1

As Johnson enters Downing Street, he will face a series of challenges, most pressing of which is breaking the political deadlock surrounding Brexit.

But while this will naturally occupy the majority of the new Prime Minister’s opening few months, we cannot let Brexit overshadow the domestic problems stifling progress here in the UK.

Specifically, I am referring to the enduring housing crisis.

As it stands, the UK must produce 300,000 new homes a year to meet soaring demand for property and improve accessibility to housing.

The government claims it is on track to meet this target by encouraging the construction of new-builds.

While it’s vital to implement policies that can help support this target, I fundamentally believe the problem needs creative solutions beyond simply ramping up housebuilding efforts.

The issues are multifaceted

A recent analysis by Sky News offered a snapshot of the intricacies of the crisis.

While the overall problem is one of unbalanced supply and demand, this manifests itself in many different ways across the country.

In some areas, the main issue lies in the number of homes that are unusable, whether this is because they are derelict or in a state of disrepair.

In other regions, however, housing stock is concentrated in the hands of the few, making the problem one of distribution rather than availability.

When assessing future housing policies, the new Prime Minister must take into account the fact that simply increasing the output of property developers overlooks the underlying obstacles contributing to the housing crisis.

Instead, all eyes will be on Johnson to come up with innovative solutions to tackle these issues.

What reforms is Johnson likely to enact?

Casting a glance at Johnson’s leadership campaign offers a good insight into the reforms we can expect him to enact during his current term as Prime Minister.

Amongst other reforms that were touted, Johnson has revealed his intentions to scrap stamp duty on homes worth up to £500,000, while halving the tax charged on those over this threshold.

This move has been heralded by industry stakeholders, particularly as it aims to stimulate the market and offer some much-needed financial breathing room to first-buyers and owner-occupiers.

Such a move is particularly welcome at a time when homeownership rates are declining across the country, especially amongst young professionals.

A stamp duty reduction might also encourage older people sitting on large properties to downsize, thus potentially increasing available housing stock for those looking to get on, or move up, the property ladder.

Away from the Tory leadership contest, Johnson had previously also supported a proposal from Policy Exchange to build 15 new “millennial towns” along major commuter transport routes.

With a goal of building 30,000 new homes in areas like Milton Keynes, it is hoped that such a move would offer working professionals more affordable and accessible housing outside of the capital.

With Westminster breaking up for the summer holidays, we must wait to see whether these reforms are ultimately implemented.

However, it is positive to note that the new Prime Minister appears intent on solving limitations within the housing market.

The question is how much of his policy rhetoric will be transformed into legislation.

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