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Big changes coming up for housing market and UK renters

The housing market is continuously under scrutiny by the government, and a new set of changes and reviews are afoot that could make a difference to renters and buyers.

The country’s rental sector is a crucial part of the housing market, providing homes for thousands of people who aren’t on the property ladder. High house prices are one factor that keeps people renting for longer, alongside lifestyle choices such as enjoying the flexibility of renting.

However, for those tenants that do want to purchase property, the government is conducting its first mortgage review in 10 years looking into ways of making property ownership more accessible.

According to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the review will focus on turning ‘Generation Rent‘ into ‘Generation Buy’, looking at ways to offer better access to low-cost mortgages for first-time buyers. This could include low-deposit, 95% mortgages.

It is thought that more than half of today’s tenants could afford monthly mortgage payments, but only 6% could immediately access a typical first-time buyer mortgage, due to things like not being able to raise a deposit and credit checks.

The government’s report is expected to be published this Autumn.

Leasehold reform takes effect soon

One major topic that has been circulating the UK housing market in recent years is the issue of leasehold houses. While a vast number of flats are sold as leasehold as a matter of course, the issue arose due to new-build houses being sold on a leasehold basis with spiralling ground rents.

The Leasehold Reform (Ground Rent) Act 2022 comes into force on 30 June 2022, except for retirement properties where it will not come into force before 1 April 2023.

It puts an end to ground rents for new, qualifying long residential leasehold properties in England and Wales. This is part of the most significant changes to property law in a generation.

After the Act comes into force, ground rent in most new leases cannot legally be for anything more than “one peppercorn per year”. This “peppercorn rent” means that no money can be legally charged or paid as ground rent on leases regulated by this Act.

The Act bans freeholders from charging administration fees for collecting a peppercorn rent.

Boosting housing market access through Right to Buy

Another big housing market announcement last week was Boris Johnson’s pledge to extend the home-buying scheme known as Right to Buy. This aims to help the 2.5 million tenants renting from housing associations by giving them the opportunity to buy their homes.

Currently, tenants in council homes are eligible to buy their homes at a discounted price, up to 70% off the market value dependent on how long they have lived there. However, the scheme is less generous for those in homes owned by housing associations, which is a major part of the housing market.

The prime minister also unveiled plans to allow benefits to be put towards mortgages in England, which he refers to as the “benefits-to-bricks” scheme. This would give universal credit recipients the choice of spending their benefits on rent or a mortgage.

This could involve discounting Lifetime ISA and Help to Buy ISA savings from universal credit eligibility rules. Currently, people can only claim if they have savings below £16,000.

Johnson commented: “Just as no generation should be locked out of home ownership because of when they were born, so nobody should be barred from that same dream simply because of where they live now.”

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove MP said: “By extending Right to Buy and bringing forward the most comprehensive review of the mortgage market in decades, we are backing first-time buyers, breaking down barriers to homeownership and delivering on the people’s priorities.

“At the same time, we will continue to deliver much-needed new, good quality social homes by replacing each and every property sold.”

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