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Housing and mortgages


Funding for improvements is not made through a conventional loan; the requirement to pay back the loan applies to the resident of the property to which the improvements have been made. The loan is not secured on the property and the charge will be treated the same as any other part of the energy bill. When an owner or tenant moves out, the obligation to make payments passes to the next resident.


The scheme launched in October 2012 and on 27 June 2013, the first set of official statistics was released on the Green Deal. Although almost 40,000 assessments had been carried out, and almost 250 Green Deal plans had been completed none have yet resulted in any energy efficiency improvement work taking place. These figures suggest that consumers may not be aware of the Green Deal or are finding alternative methods of financing energy efficiency improvements to their homes such as through taking out further mortgage advances.


Devolved administrations


Housing policy continued to diverge between England, Scotland and Wales over the last year.


Every year the BSA and other property-related organisations lobby the Government to review the structure of Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT), so the Scottish Government consultation on changes to Stamp Duty was positively received. The English Government intends to retain the ‘slab structure’ for stamp duty, where the percentage of stamp duty paid rises at various thresholds, which means that homebuyers seek to avoid paying a purchase price just over any of those thresholds causing distortion in the market. In contrast, when the Scottish Government gains new powers over taxes from 2015, it will move to a ‘progressive’ system for its equivalent of SDLT which will be called ‘Land and Buildings Transaction tax’. The progressive system would charge the increased tax only on the proportion of the purchase price which exceeds a threshold eliminating the sharp increase in tax paid at thresholds and the distorting effect caused by them.


Another big departure from English housing strategy is how the Welsh Government intends to treat the private rented sector. Whilst the English Government favours a competitive market in the private rented sector with low regulation and low barriers to entry, the Welsh Government intends to move to a highly regulated sector, targeting both landlords and letting agents. The proposed system will comprise a register of landlords with a ‘fit and proper’ test to gain entry and mandatory accreditation of either the landlord or letting agent undertaking the management of the property.


A further example of difference between the nations can be seen in the controversial area of Right to Buy. Whilst the English Government has revived and is actively promoting the scheme, coupled with a commitment to the one-for-one replacement of social housing lost into the private sector, the Scottish Government is seeking to further reduce the number of households that are eligible to buy their council house. The Scottish Government has already removed the option for new council tenants to buy their homes, but has now announced the intention to remove Right to Buy completely.


Each of the devolved administrations are dealing with their own specific housing issues and it is natural that we begin to see some tailoring of housing policy. It would be a shame for England, Scotland and Wales to move so far apart in their housing policies that cross-border lending becomes problematic and mortgages in each of the devolved administrations is left solely to local lenders.


Conclusion


In summary it has been an interesting and active time in the world of housing and next year looks to be another year of flux. We welcome the increased prominence that housing is playing on the political agenda and hope that issues surrounding home ownership and housing need continue to be viewed as vote winners by politicians.


Sponsored by www.bsa.org.uk 23


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