Property industry calls for more Land Registry support and green incentives ahead of Autumn Budget

The chancellor of the exchequer, Rishi Sunak, is set to present this year’s Autumn Budget and Spending Review in parliament on 27th October.

Ahead of the speech on Wednesday, Brydg has sent an official letter to the chancellor and the secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, Kwasi Kwarteng, calling for substantially better funding of the Land Registry and, if necessary, for the government to reconsider the idea of privatisation.

According to the specialist lender, the allocation of additional funds to the Land Registry could enhance localised knowledge and transparency, as well as tackle housing shortages and offer large benefits to the real estate industry and wider economy.

Peter Matthews, director at Brydg, said: “Real estate development, especially the repurposing of older housing stock, is vital to UK economic growth.

“Most property redevelopment is funded through secured borrowings against that property which requires Land Registry authentication of ownership; Land Registry therefore holds the key to unlocking property redevelopment and the UK’s future economic prospects.

“Helping Land Registry to meet its capabilities more swiftly will tackle housing shortages and will be enormously beneficial to the real estate industry as well as to the wider economy. 

“Greater knowledge more swiftly delivered about real estate transactions will help transparency, reduce fraud, and allow more efficient capital allocation.”

Other specialist finance experts have also shared their views in terms of what they wish the Autumn Budget would address.

Jeremy Leaf, north London estate agent and a former RICS residential chairman; and John Eastgate, managing director of property finance at Shawbrook Bank, have both called for the chancellor to review and rethink the current planning process.

“We must try to improve delivery by making the planning system work more efficiently and transparently, including modernising Section 106 and Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) charges so they don't become an obstacle,” said Jeremy.

John added: “After being promised the biggest shake up to the property market for a generation, expected changes to the planning process have since been scrapped, leaving the door open for a revised approach from the new housing minister

“It’s nothing new to say that the UK has a chronic lack of housing; the government must make it easier for smaller developers and individuals to build on viable land in order to meet current demands. 

“A crucial part of this, and what we need to see from the chancellor, is a commitment to supporting the long overdue changes to the planning process. 

“The property market can have a key role to play in the government’s levelling up agenda, but only if it’s given the right tools to do so.”

Both Jeremy and John have also highlighted the need for more green incentives, in addition to more information and practical guidance to fully support landlords, investors and homeowners to transition to sustainable and energy-efficient ways of heating their home or making improvements to a property.

“Good EPC ratings are still not a high enough priority for aspiring or existing homeowners, but tax breaks might increase energy efficiency and retrofitting, supported by green mortgages and more generous green homes grants,” explained Jeremy.

“However, it's important to not reduce the value or saleability of older, unmodernised properties or discourage their improvement.

“The £5,000 grant for heat pumps to replace old gas boilers is a good start, but needs to be backed up by further information about installation, maintenance and insulation. 

“One size will clearly not fit all, as owners and landlords will spend a higher proportion of a property's value on this work in different parts of the country.”

According to Jeremy, the chancellor will need to look at measures to increase housing supply, including incentivising local authorities to build their own affordable housing.

“More transactions are not just good news for the property market, but for the country's job and social mobility,” he stated.

“Lack of stock is deterring activity which cannot be good for first-time buyers in particular — the lifeblood of the market.

“Additional tax breaks for 'right-sizing' and bringing empty properties back into use would be welcome to help address the shortage of affordable homes for the growing number of over-65s.

“Further details of leasehold reform and zero ground rents for existing, as well as brand new properties, not just as part of levelling up, would be another way of increasing supply and activity.

“Build to rent and BTL provide a very useful contribution at all stages of the home-moving journey, so [they] require continuing support.”

Meanwhile, John calls for the government to introduce a cut to inheritance tax for those looking to downsize.

“As well as incentivising large homeowners to move into more manageable properties and freeing up bigger family homes across the market to help younger generations, it would also allow families to hold on to more of their accrued wealth and pass it on to loved ones, so they too can build a deposit to buy their own home.”

Ed Rimmer, CEO at Time Finance, believes the chancellor must also focus on ways to accelerate SME growth.

“We have seen some incredible signs of recovery and growth among our clients, the majority of whom have come out of the pandemic fighting; they are investing for growth, expanding their workforce, and investing in new products and services — all of that will be put in jeopardy if the government does not put the correct systems in place.”

According to Ed, the survival of small businesses and the UK’s continued economic recovery relies on two measures: safeguarding taxes on small businesses — including an extension to the retail rates relief — and investing in skills training to counteract the current gap, particularly in the construction sector.

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