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BSA thoughts on the UK housing market

By Paul Broadhead, Head of Mortgage and Housing Policy at the BSA. This article was first published in Mortgage Finance Gazette.

By Paul Broadhead, Head of Mortgage and Housing Policy at the BSA. 

This article was first published in Mortgage Finance Gazette.

I concluded my article last month by saying we needed a clear partnership between the Government and the Bank of England to calm the markets, coupled with a joined up and sustainable housing supply plan from the Government.

Sitting here a month later, despite significant political turmoil in the last four weeks, progress has been made. The markets have started to settle from the volatility caused by the Kwarteng mini-budget, helped by changes in senior Government positions and specific action taken by the Bank of England. Also, the new Secretary of State appointed to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, is an individual who made notable progress on some of the housing issues when he was last in this role, just a few short months ago.

We welcome Michael Gove’s move back to DLUHC as he has proved himself to be a minister who understands the key issues and takes action. He made swift progress on the cladding problems during the 10 months when he was last in this role, including protecting leaseholders in properties impacted by cladding and building safety issues from the costs of remediation. Of course it’s not job done, we now need to see the funding becoming available without any further delay, and we need regulation to prevent new buildings under 11 metres from using combustible cladding.

On wider housing issues, it’s encouraging to hear Gove backing the Government’s manifesto pledge to build 300,000 new homes each year by 2025, with a mix of both ownership and rental properties. Addressing housing supply is critically important to change the imbalance between supply and demand and the impacts this has on society and the housing market.

The latest Government re-shuffle sees Grant Shapps brought in to lead the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, which gives him responsibility for the green agenda. As a former housing minister, he has an understanding of our market and the issues around greening our housing stock. There’s a lot of work needed in this space, given our homes are responsible for 25% of the UK’s total energy usage and 16% of greenhouse gas emissions. As a first step I’d like to see a commitment to the Future Homes Standard, which would avoid new builds requiring subsequent retrofit.

We then need to consider how to tackle the 29 million existing homes that require retrofitting to improve their energy efficiency, whilst ensuring well intended policies do not create ‘energy prisoners’ by preventing lending on energy leaky properties.

There’s a lot more our industry can do to support the greening of our homes, including extending green mortgages to energy inefficient homes, providing homeowners with the financial support needed to improve them.  Later this month the Green Finance Institute will launch its Broker Handbook that builds on the Lenders’ Handbook, ensuring borrowers coming through intermediaries get information on appropriate solutions to improve the energy efficiency of their home.

However, if we are to make a real impact in this area, we need the Government to set out its long-term plans on the action and support it will provide homeowners, including bringing forward the energy strategy from 2026. Only then can we all really work together to provide consumers with the confidence and tools to take much-needed action.

Finally, as the UK is now officially in a recession and the MPC has just announced the biggest single increase in the Bank Rate in over 30 years, the 8th rise in less than 12 months with more rises expected in the coming months, we can’t under-estimate the impact this will have on mortgage borrowers and first-time buyers.

With around eight in ten existing borrowers on fixed rates, it will take time for the full impact to be felt, but it’s clear the road ahead is going to be tough. Currently mortgage arrears rates are lower than they were at the start of the pandemic, but this is something we need to closely monitor and provide timely tailored support where it’s needed.

The impact on first-time buyers is more immediate as the higher mortgage costs sit alongside spiralling inflation, which isn’t expected to start falling until the middle of next year. Their affordability will be affected and it’s likely that many will need to lower their ambitions as they’re unlikely to be able to borrower at the level they might have achieved 12 months ago.

One of Boris Johnson’s last acts as Prime Minister was to announce a Mortgage Market Review, aimed at helping people to get, and stay, on the property ladder. Whilst the new Government has many priorities, we need confirmation that it remains committed to supporting aspiring homeowners and keeping the mortgage market open.