It is a while since I can recall so many responses to a Budget landing in my inbox.
I guess after the damp squibs of recent years, people couldn’t believe the chancellor had promised to do something to address the housing crisis and seemed to have actually delivered.
There we were at Property Week towers with our bottles of Champagne (OK, cheap own-label prosecco), ready to pop the corks and celebrate victory for our Call Off Duty campaign. Our principal demand had been to exempt first-time buyers from stamp duty, after all.
Finally, Hammond had seen sense and abolished it. Victory was ours. Huzza! No matter that our campaign had made four other demands. This could be the Trojan horse used to win other critical stamp duty concessions. Huzza!
Sadly, the victory was soon revealed to be a somewhat pyrrhic one and the bottles had to be returned to the fridge for another day. HM Treasury’s own figures show that Hammond’s decision to abolish stamp duty below £300,000 will only save first-time buyers £5,000 at most. It certainly won’t do much for many would-be buyers in London. We’re talking about purchases in the hundreds of thousands of pounds and deposits in the tens of thousands!
Even if it does sway a few people, what are they going to buy? The supply is not there at the moment and regardless of how much credence you give to the government’s plan to deliver 300,000 new homes, they won’t be delivered for a while – if at all given the highly notional nature of previous targets.
Instead of playing to the gallery, why can’t Hammond look down the right end of the telescope for once – and incentivise the parts of the property industry that could make a difference where it matters, on the supply side? As Jean-Marc Vandevivere, chief executive of Platform_, argues: “Far better would have been to reverse the SDLT surcharge for institutional investors, helping encourage the delivery of high-quality, purpose-built homes for rent, which is what this country needs.”
But that wouldn’t be populist enough, I suppose, and you only have to consider Hammond’s decision to slap capital gains tax on foreign investors – a move described by one expert as the biggest change in commercial property taxation in the UK since the introduction of stamp duty in 2003 – to realise where his priorities lie.
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