Westminster has an opportunity on Monday to right some wrongs in the property market.
It’s never going to be able to do enough in a single afternoon to correct the consequences of years of shilly-shallying by successive Governments which has led us to a position where the average first-time buyer under the age of 40 struggles to afford a home.
However, at least the Budget on Monday provides the Conservatives with the chance to put an end to the rhetoric and posturing and actually announce some concrete action which may at least halt the madness.
So what are the experts predicting Mr Hammond will do to fix the “broken housing market” (his words a few months ago, not ours)?
Although some would like to see more cuts in Stamp Duty, the smart money suggests it’s unlikely.
Instead, the Chancellor may announce a reduction in capital gains tax for landlords who sell their property to their long-term tenants. The theory is that the move could be an incentive for some landlords to offer homes for a little less than the going market price, giving some first-time buyers a much-needed leg up onto the property ladder.
The Prime Minister has also hinted that the Tories may introduce additional taxes to make it harder for investors from overseas to snap up homes in the UK.
A 3% surcharge has been mooted but whether that’s enough to deter wealthy overseas investors would remain to be seen.
Mrs May has also suggested that she would like to see the borrowing cap for councils who want to build more affordable housing scrapped. After a decade of austerity, the move would no doubt be applauded – but it would come at a high price, potentially costing us much as £1bn.
This could be the last Budget before Brexit; the Government desperately needs some good news and, if Mrs May’s promise at the Conservative conference that austerity is over was genuine, Mr Hammond has the opportunity to lift the national mood.
It would be a shame then if, once the dust has settled, we discover, yet again, we’re holding nothing more than false hope and empty promises.
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