It would be tempting to blame Brexit for any forthcoming downturn, but its roots run deeper. The Government seem hell bent on increasing home ownership again. Probably because it brings with it increases in Conservative votes.
So, it was with some surprise that we witnessed the Chancellor attack its existing supporters by increasing the stamp duty on Buy to Let purchases, reducing the tax efficiency of such purchases and complicating the taxation process too. If that were not enough, the Bank Of England has recently weighed in to try and stem the growth in Buy to Let by restricting people’s ability to borrow.
Why should we worry about this? Cast your mind back to the financial crisis. It is possible to make a case that the problems were exacerbated because the Treasury, the FSA and the Bank of England openly disagreed on policy on a regular basis. This “trinity” governed our financial response to the crisis.
Despite a different sharing of power not much appears to have changed. They may get on slightly better but the FCA, Treasury and Bank still appear to communicate ineffectively with each other.
So, just when the Treasury and the Bank are effectively thwarting buy to let, the FCA are busy making it harder for people to take out mortgages. The new affordability checks are rational and may well stop the excesses we have seen before but they still have the effect of choking off demand. People therefore need to rent. Couple the inability of some to buy or maybe now to even rent and we risk a structural shortage of housing being transformed into falling house prices. That is quite some trick to pull off!
The current greenfield development binge in Southern England is not just laying waste to the countryside but it is exposing builders to the vagaries of demand. Surely, with pent up demand they can’t lose can they? Well if the Trinity have their way they just might. All of this might not matter if SMEs weren’t gearing up to support growing demand and if we hadn’t just voted to leave the EU. We could see a house price fall start a recession.
It is time our Trinity started to talk to each other.