Editor’s Note: Flying start

Say it quietly, but the year has got off to a pretty good start for the mortgage market.

We returned to our desks last week after the Christmas and New Year lull in time for communities secretary Sajid Javid’s announcement that the Government’s recently bolstered affordable housing fund had opened its doors to business. Housing providers can now apply for finance and the Government is also earmarking brownfield sites for discounted first-time buyer homes.

Could this really be the year that Britain gets to grips with its housing crisis and begins to deliver the volume of new homes required to meet demand? There is an air of cautious optimism among industry commentators. Let’s hope it lasts.

Later this month the Government’s housing white paper should provide further insight into how ministers plan to tackle the many problems that have stifled supply thus far.

Further welcome news to lighten brokers’ back-to-work blues came from Santander. The lender delivered a late Christmas present to the intermediary market with the announcement that, following a successful pilot, it would be paying proc fees on retention deals from March. The new policy will be rolled out first via its networks and clubs before being extended to the wider market.

Of course, most advisers will agree that it is only right that they should be paid a fee on such cases because the work involved is the same as for new mortgages and product switches, but nevertheless it is cause to celebrate. Having another large lender such as Santander join the ranks of those paying retention fees is a double win. Not only will it give brokers a significant boost to their income during 2017 but it will add to pressure on the remaining lenders that have yet to adopt this policy.

Looking to the year ahead, there are still many clouds of uncertainty on the horizon.

Much is still unknown about what form Brexit will take and how it will impact the economy and housing market. In our buy-to-let roundtable (p8-10), panelists are vocal about the many changes affecting the sector and only time will tell how that story plays out for landlords.

But all told, the first week back has been better than expected. More of the same, please, 2017.