Assuming the UK sticks to its standard election pattern, the current parliament is almost halfway through its term. This means politicians across the board will be starting to gear up to contest their seats. The governments current raft of housing-related proposals looks like an opening salvo in the Conservative’s electoral campaign. Here is a brief guide to them.
Those with longer memories may recall that back in 2017, the government set out its proposals for “fixing the broken housing market”. The wheels of government tend to turn slowly at the best of times. In this instance, they were derailed by Brexit and COVID19. That means a lot of what’s on offer for renters is essentially what’s been on the cards since 2017.
Greater protection from eviction
The government is now finally starting to take steps towards banning Section 21 evictions, otherwise known as “no-fault evictions”. In tandem with this, they are also proposing effectively to abolish fixed-term tenancies in the residential housing market.
The government plans to put all tenancies onto an ongoing, rolling basis. Tenants would be able to break the lease any time they wished. Landlords, however, would only be able to regain the property if they had a specific and valid reason for doing so.
Better housing standards
The government plans to make it easier for tenants to take action against landlords who fail to maintain housing to an adequate standard. They believe that this will help to raise the standard of housing overall.
The right to have pets
The government has emphasised that it will be made clearly illegal for landlords to place blanket bans on tenants in receipt of benefits and families with children. The key point to note here is that it already is. Therefore, this measure is not actually new. What is new is that the government also plans to make it illegal for landlords to ban pets without a valid reason.
Some of what’s planned for buyers is essentially “more of the same”. For example, the government (currently) plans to continue with its various Help-to-Buy schemes. There are, however, also some new options on the cards.
The expansion of right-to-buy
Right-to-buy still exists but has been largely curtailed over recent years. The government plans to expand it again. In particular, it plans to make it easier for Housing Association tenants to buy their properties.
This move is an open callback to the Margaret Thatcher era. As such, it’s attracted quite a bit of controversy. Some have praised the move to increase home ownership. Others have pointed out how the mass sale of social housing contributed to the challenges faced by many people today.
Benefits to bricks
The government plans to make it possible for people to use housing benefits payments to pay for mortgages. This proposal has been dubbed “benefits to bricks” and has certainly been getting its fair share of headlines. Realistically, however, it’s debatable just how much impact it’s going to have in the real world.
Quite simply, it’s hard to see housing benefit having much of an impact on the average residential mortgage. It might be useful as a stop-gap measure but probably not as useful as PPI, Income-Protection Insurance and/or Critical-Illness cover.
Protection for deposits
At present, money held in a Help-to-Buy ISA or a Lifetime ISA is counted as part of a person’s savings if they apply for Universal Credit. The government proposes to ring-fence these funds to protect people’s future deposits (and presumably future pensions too).
Coincidentally, this also helps to deal with the criticism of the H2B ISA and LISA withdrawal penalties. These effectively mean that people are charged for withdrawing their own money from these products.
The government has made it clear it does not plan to change these penalties. Changing benefits calculations would, however, provide something of a work-around to them. In other words, it would prevent people from being charged to withdraw money they needed due to circumstances.
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