Yesterday saw a development we have been expecting for a while now. After all the weaker outlook for UK house prices with London seeing house price falls and the country as a whole seeing slower house prices growth was always going to unsettle an establishment that wants them higher. The trouble is of course that after all the credit easing from the Bank of England and the “Help” from the government there was a shortage of extra things which could be done. Well on Sunday the Housing Finance Institute and Radian shouted “Hold my beer”
The paper is instead calling for more of the £44 billion housing budget to be prioritised in favour of helping young people get on the housing ladder and in delivering a larger, more flexible social rented sector.
Okay how? The emphasis is mine.
The Government should significantly extend home ownership support schemes at the end of the current Help-To-Buy programme in 2021. There are a range of different schemes that could be implemented from providing direct deposits, to tax breaks, to mortgage finance guarantees. These should be fully considered by the national housing delivery commission and set out in the national housing delivery plan.
That is a pretty comprehensive list of the sort even the Bank of Japan might be proud of. So more “Help” with the unwritten implication that it will in fact be permanent under such a policy operation. Also the return of tax breaks which we spent quite some years removing ( as they were a distortion on the market) followed by mortgage finance guarantees. It is only a short step from the latter to getting your mortgage from a state bank although of course the Bank of England would much prefer even more aid being funnelled to the “precious” banking sector. Indeed the banks would be delighted to see this.
A direct loan by government of up to 10%
per property could double the number of
people that can be helped.
Of course there was an ersatz version of this in the run-up to the credit crunch as banks used personal loans and the like as a way of funding deposits. Of course that was not supposed to happen and this new plan would take us into a new era of 100% mortgages. The next issue comes from wondering how would this be repaid? On this road we discover a can of worms or two. Again the emphasis is mine.
A home deposit loan could be recovered through the tax
system from deductions and could allow a
difference between repayment trigger dates
and amounts for higher and lower paid
salaries, and/or deferring final repayment
to the sale of the property.
The initial suggestion looks alone the lines of the student loan system which is not entirely reassuring as we note that many such loans may never be repaid. If we now look at the highlighted suggestion then the can is potentially being kicked a long way into the future. This offers security on the asset but of course unless house prices rise yet again will leave the individual(s) concerned yet again lacking funds for house purchase unless they move somewhere smaller. Then again the plan is simply to kick the can into the future and hope for the best.
In essence this report has been driven by this.
Over the period from 2002 over 2.5 million
extra private rented households were
formed; more than the total number
of all extra households in that period.
This is the flip-side in the boom in the buy-to let sector as the houses bought will come onto the market to be rented out. Whilst I am no fan of the buy-to-let boom I am also sure that many and maybe much of the private-rented sector provides decent homes so I think we have a fair degree of overkill here. No doubt some are poor quality but the social sector is not perfect either and the boundaries can be blurred lines as the Grenfell fire disaster showed.
Well just in case converting deposits from savings to loan finance is not enough there is also this.
A housing allowance tax scheme
could be introduced where young home
owners’ mortgage interest can be deducted
We used to have something like that called MIRAS ( Mortgage Interest Relief At Source ) which was scrapped some years back. The only difference is that the tax relief is for younger buyers and some of you may be pleased to note that at one part of the document 44 seems to be regarded as an age threshold!
If we step back for a moment and imagine a situation where the policies suggested above are implemented then the first consequence would be higher house prices. This of course would start the bandwagon rolling again as the new higher house prices would be even more unaffordable and thus the cry would yet again go up for more “Help”
My independence seems to vanish in the haze
(But) but every now and then (now and then) I feel so insecure (I know that I)
I know that I just need you like I never done before ( The Beatles)
It is a bit like putting your I-Pod or MP3 player on repeat and listening to the same old song again and again on this particular road to nowhere. These higher house prices will be on the back of the ones driven higher by the previous “Help (To Buy)” and the 0.5% Bank Rate and credit easing of the Bank of England.
On this particular road we then find that a new group needs help as if we change the rules to help millennials then it will be the post millennials who will face an even bigger problem at which point there may be nothing left apart from the government buying the house for them.
The house price move could be very quick. It would not be as fast as exchange rate movements ( for newer readers we have seen those predate expected moves by ~6 months) but if history is any guide will see house prices adjust by the change so say 10% within a year or two. At which point there is a windfall for those who sell their property paid for by new buyers and increasingly financed by the state. Unless you sell the property or raise more finance it is only a paper windfall so only small numbers have a real gain. The catch is that collectively we are back where we started as the younger house buyers face higher prices and will increasingly report that they are unaffordable yet again. That issue is driven by the gap between the house price rises and the official data on real wages as we try to do more with less.
average total pay (including bonuses) for employees in Great Britain was £489 per week before tax and other deductions from pay, £33 lower than the pre-downturn peak of £522 per week recorded for February 2008
Meanwhile I note that we have seen today the numbers for unsecured credit including student loans released this morning. The annual growth rate including them was 11.3% in the year to March whereas it was 8.6% without them. Any thoughts as to why they are usually left out?