A round-up of parliamentary business the week beginning 13 October:
Sir Michael Lyons has published the outcome of his review into how a Labour government can increase the level of house building to at least 200,000 a year by 2020. Ed Miliband has endorsed the report and also pledged to set a national goal to double the number of first-time buyers by 2015. To achieve this, they have announced three policies:
- Enable local authorities to designate new Housing Growth Areas which will have the power to assemble land and give certainty that building will take place.
- Make it mandatory for local authorities to have a Local Plan to meet the housing needs of the local community.
- Give local authorities the power to reserve a proportion of homes built in the Housing Growth Areas for first-time buyers from the area who would have priority access for a period of two months. Local authorities will also be able to restrict the sale of homes in these areas so they cannot be sold for buy-to-let or buy-to-leave empty properties.
The party has also accepted a number of other proposals from the report including:
- Powers for groups of local authorities to collaborate and form New Homes Corporations to build out designated land quickly.
- Measures to drive competition in the housing building industry, increase capacity, and expanding the number of small firms.
- A Help to Build scheme to underwrite loans to small builders to get them building again and fast-track planning on small sites.
- Financial incentives to local authorities so that they deliver a programme of new garden cities and suburbs.
The government’s proposals to give pensioners additional rights to dip into their pension pots were introduced this week in the form of the Taxation of Pensions Bill. At present savers can take a lump sum of up to 25% of their pension pot tax-free and then place the other 75% in a drawdown account, with any further money taxed at their marginal rate. The new legislation will allow several lump sums to be withdrawn without pensioners having to enter a drawdown policy. The Bill’s second reading debate will take place on 27 October.
Housing stability for those renting in the private sector was the subject of a number of oral questions in the House of Lords. Peers asked questions on longer term tenancies, the build to rent scheme, and tax relief for buy-to-let borrowers.
The Scottish government announced that from 22 October the Scottish Help to Buy equity scheme will only apply to homes worth up to £250,000, rather than the current maximum of £400,000.
In Europe, the Commission published an “occasional paper” looking at possible reforms of real estate taxation and the criteria for successful policies. The paper suggests a shift away from high taxes on residential property transfers to a recurrent tax on residential property: “A transaction tax reduces the number of transactions and hampers the price discovery process. It can affect labour mobility negatively, and discourages transactions that would allocate the housing stock more efficiently. A recurrent tax on residential property is less distortive.” The paper also suggests that the failure to update council tax in line with house prices also pushes up prices.
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