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Comment: Time for something big?

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The best that landlords can hope for from the Autumn Statement is that the Chancellor leaves them alone for a bit

With the date of the Autumn Statement set for 23 November, the industry is speculating about what is in store for the housing and mortgage market. Robert Peston recently suggested the Government wanted to announce “something big” in the area, although what that may be is still up for debate.

Prime Minister Theresa May has alluded to the provision of more help for first-time buyers. However, her new housing minister, Gavin Barwell, used his first major speech in the role to stress the importance of the private rental sector. This has led some to argue there may be a U-turn on the mortgage interest tax relief changes due to be introduced next April. But it seems unlikely. Perhaps the best that landlords can hope for is that Chancellor Philip Hammond leaves them alone for a while.

Yorkshire Building Society has suggested wholesale changes to stamp duty, which indeed would constitute “something big” . It wants to see the payment of the tax shifted exclusively to the seller, meaning first-timers – apart from those buying new-builds – would be exempt.

Crucial here is how such a change could affect the return delivered by stamp duty for the Government. While change may not be out of the question, if such a move would reduce tax receipts it is not going to happen. Plus, of course, at a time of great uncertainty the Government does not want the property supply cut further by existing owners who hold back from putting their home on the market because they would have to pay for the ‘privilege’.

I think the “something big” will relate to increasing supply and working with housebuilders.

There is talk of a regeneration fund being developed, which would certainly feed into the Government’s talk of increasing supply and meeting its stated ambition of building one million new, affordable homes by the end of this Parliament.

Bob Hunt is chief executive of Paradigm Mortgage Services

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