As Covid’s second wave arrives, UK government grasps for answers on the housing crisis

The UK Housing Review published its Autumn Briefing Paper this month, with the document making for uninspiring reading for both private renters and aspiring homeowners looking to plant their first foot on the property ladder. The report, which acts as a supplement to the main spring review, identified a number of vital issues yet to be fully addressed, even as top officials like Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick scramble to face a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic that could drive the housing sector even further into crisis.

For one thing, homeowners and prospective homebuyers alike are facing significant problems. Mitigatory measures like the Chancellor’s holiday on stamp tax duty don’t go far enough to aid the most vulnerable individuals and families looking to buy or sell a home, while many people whose transactions were disrupted during the spring confinement are left with little recourse under current government policy. Meanwhile, rising prices, more stringent lending terms, and falling wages are all contributing to the greatest measure of inequality the housing sector has seen in a decade, putting mortgages now impossibly out of reach for many younger Britons.

At the same time, there’s the prospect of a looming crisis in the rental sector. This has until now been somewhat staved off by certain protections, including a moratorium on evictions. As these measures lapse, furlough agreements end, and job losses mount, only the government can ensure the healthcare crisis isn’t augmented by one in the rental market.

Stamp tax shortcomings

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak has delighted in rumours of a supposed mini-boom in the housing market after he announced a stamp duty holiday until March 2021. While that holiday may make as many as 9 out of 10 current transactions exempt from the tax, the initiative is not without its own criticisms. The ruling, effective from July 8th, will not be backdated, meaning many people whose deals were disrupted prior to this date have been left in limbo. Indeed, it was the government’s own kibosh on the property market back in March which resulted in the pandemonium; it’s believed nearly a third of those affected may not be able to recover their exchange deposit, solicitor’s fees, or mortgage offer as a result of the economic crunch.

By John Saunders, please read the full article on