News

Social housing providers have the chance to bid for a share of a £160 million cash injection through the government's "Social Housing Decarbonisation fund" to make major energy-efficient improvements to their housing stock. This is part of the wider £9 billion commitment to increase the energy efficiency of homes, schools and hospitals – driving forward the Prime Minister’s 10 Point Plan for a green industrial revolution.

The press release states: "In total, through this first wave of funding, up to 38,000 of the UK’s worst energy-performing social housing properties – with energy performance certificate (EPC) ratings of D or below – will have the chance to receive vital energy efficiency upgrades, including installation of insulation and more energy efficient doors, windows and heating systems."

Read more here.

As expected, there has been a slight slow down in property sales activity following the recent phasing out of the stamp duty holiday according to the RICS UK Residential Market Survey. The supply of new properties coming to market continues to slow and has reached its lowest level since April 2020, the most affected areas are Yorkshire & the Humber, the East Midlands, and East Anglia. However, prices are still going up and this trend is apparent across the whole of the UK. Demand for rented accommodation is still on the rise and a lack of landlord instructions is adding acute pressure to this area of the market. The RICS Residential Market Survey is a monthly sentiment survey of Chartered Surveyors who operate in the residential sales and lettings markets and you can read the full report here.

UK business leaders have called upon the government to develop a national retrofit strategy to deal with inefficient homes as a matter of urgency, or risk failure to meet the 2050 net-zero emissions target. As the residential sector accounted for just over 20% of carbon dioxide emissions in 2020*,  the likes of Nationwide, Eon, British Gas, Legal & General’s modular homes, Midas Group and the Federation of Master Builders are pushing the government into action to dramatically reduce this. Claire Tracey, chief strategy and sustainability officer at Nationwide Building Society said the government needs to “create a national retrofitting strategy that ensures the UK’s Paris Agreement commitments can be met. Anything less and we risk not only missing our climate targets, but also missing an opportunity to achieve higher-quality housing, lower energy bills, and new green jobs for the whole of the UK.” The Green Homes Grant voucher scheme was criticised for being cancelled by the government this year and further referencing previous scrapped or revised programmes, Noble Francis, economics director of the Construction Products Association said that future schemes must have time to “build up momentum so that households have faith in the scheme and see the benefits of it”. He also added that companies in the supply chain need time “to make major investments in new capacity”. The UK business department pointed out that 40% of homes now have an EPC rating of B or C, compared to 9% just over a decade ago. Read more here.


*https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/972583/2020_Provisional_emissions_statistics_report.pdf

It has been widely reported that house prices have been steadily increasing, with an average rise of over 10% in the last year alone. However, the rate of earnings growth has been much lower at around just 2% and this has significantly impacted affordability for many UK city areas. To give some perspective to this gap, it equates to a price to earnings (PE) ratio of 8.1, in simple terms, this means that an average UK city home costs over eight times the average salary. This gap has been growing wider for some time and 10 years ago, the average house cost 5.6 times more than the average salary. The least affordable UK city is now Winchester, with homes costing 14 times the average salary, and conversely, Londonderry (N Ireland) is the most affordable, having a PE ratio of 4.7. This is closely followed by Carlisle and Bradford with a ratio of 4.8. To add some context, the average house price in Winchester is £630,432 and in Londonderry it is £155,917. Across the UK, the average house price is £327,691 and the average salary is £38,600.
Read more from Lloyds Banking Group here.

Property sales are proving more successful than ever recorded in the past 10 years, according to a report by Rightmove. By tracking a huge 13 million property sales journeys, their research discovered that overall, almost 70% of sellers found a buyer between June 2020 and June 2021, which is the highest recorded in a decade. Hot spots include Falkirk and East Dunbartonshire in Scotland achieving over 90% of successful sales, closely followed by Sheffield in South Yorkshire, also Craven in North Yorkshire and Chorley in Lancashire achieving over 80% of sales. King’s Lynn in Norfolk and Bexley in Greater London sit at the bottom of the league table at 74%. Buyers are feeling less restricted by location due to work commitments and are looking further afield for space and the work/life balance. Read more here.

Prior to the first national lockdown, RPSA ran some informal "Meet & Greet" sessions to enable people to network and talk about surveying. now that restrictions have been eased, RPSA has scheduled some Meet & Greets over the coming months. We thought we would share these dates with our readers should anyone be interested. The invitation is open to anyone, whether they are an RPSA member or not, qualified surveyors, students, prospective students. It may be a useful opportunity for students to meet up with other surveyors and possibly try and find mentoring/shadowing opportunities.

Details of the events are available at http://www.rpsa.org.uk/events.php and RPSA ask people wishing to attend to email events@rpsa.org.uk so they can ensure numbers are managed. The events organised so far are:

Wednesday 18th August Milton Keynes
https://www.harvester.co.uk/restaurants/southeast/harvestereastlakemiltonkeynes
Holiday Inn Express next door

Wednesday 15th September Exeter
https://www.brewersfayre.co.uk/en-gb/locations/devon/exeter
Premier Inn and HI Express next door

Wednesday 13th October Warrington
https://www.harvester.co.uk/restaurants/northwest/harvesterapollowarrington
Stay in Manchester for CABE Conference

Halifax has published data for July which shows house prices rose by 0.4%, with the average house price currently £261,221, an increase of £1,122 on June's data. The average price is more than £18,500 higher than a year ago.
Managing Director of Halifax, Russell Galley, said:
"Latest industry figures show instructions for sale are falling and estate agents are experiencing a drop in their available stock. This general lack of supply should help to support prices in the near-term, as will the exceptionally low cost of borrowing and continued strong customer demand.  “Although there remains some uncertainty over the impact on employment from the unwinding of government support schemes, on balance the risks to the macro-environment are receding, with consumer confidence improving, the labour market recovering, and the economy expanding as restrictions are lifted. Overall, assuming a continuation of recent economic trends, we expect the housing market to remain solid over the next few months, with annual price growth continuing to slow but remaining well into positive territory by the end of the year.”
Click here to read the report.

Following an investigation by CMA (the Competition and Markets Authority), housebuilder Persimmon will now allow leaseholders to buy the freehold of their property at a discount. In addition, Aviva, the insurance company which buys leaseholds from the housebuilders, will repay homeowners who saw their ground rent double. Campaigners have described this commitment as a "massive milestone" in this article, and it is hoped that other developers will follow.

Read the press release from CMA here.

Mortgage lending reached a record-breaking £35.6 billion in March of this year, the highest level since 1993 when the Bank of England records began. The number of remortgages approved in March 2021 stood at just under 35,000, whereas new mortgage approvals reached 82,700, 13% higher than the previous year. The mortgage market clearly responded to demand, with 200 products available for buyers with a 5% deposit and 500 deals for anyone with a 10% deposit. For existing homeowners, there is now a choice of over 4,000 mortgage deals to choose from, up 50% from the previous year. Yet these numbers appear to belie the fact that around 80% of mortgage applications from first-time buyers fail to get approved due to reasons such as poor credit history, insufficient deposit, not being on the electoral register, or not having a regular income. With overall product choice increasing nearly across the board, it would seem a strong property market has boosted confidence in lending.

Read more here.

The G7 summit took place on 11th-13th June to tackle amongst other things, global challenges and to support a sustainable recovery from the pandemic. Pledging to build back better from coronavirus and create a greener, more prosperous future, prime minister Boris Johnson said “…as G7, we are united in our vision for a cleaner, greener world, a solution to the problems of climate change…” The G7 leaders gathered together in the very picturesque Carbis Bay in Cornwall, attracting a great deal of media attention across the world and we hope that the discussions lead to some real positive action. This media attention also piqued the interest of house hunters as Rightmove reported a massive 103% increase in searches in the Carbis Bay area for 9th June compared to the day before. The average asking price in the Carbis Bay area is £384,000, some £50,000 higher than the average for Cornwall. There has been a trend for house hunters to start searching for more greener areas, more spacious homes and a better work-life balance, thanks to the pandemic and as such, Cornwall became the most searched for place on Rightmove in February this year.

Read more here.

This article from the Property Reporter suggests there are early signs the property market is beginning to cool according to new data from Rightmove. This month saw a 0.8% increase in property prices, lower than the 1.8% increase in May and the 2.1% increase in April. However, it remains the largest rise at this time of year since 2015.

Tim Bannister, Rightmove’s Director of Property Data, says: “Buyer demand remains very strong, though, with an all-time low in the number of properties available for sale on estate agents’ books and new stock at higher than ever average prices, there are early signs of a slowing in the frenetic pace.

"Since the market re-opened last May in England we have seen huge jumps in the numbers of sales being agreed, but these are now rising at a slower pace. Record low-interest rates and stamp duty tax reliefs have helped many to afford higher prices, satisfying their pent-up desires for a new home fit for a new era. Some of that demand has now been met, and the phasing out of stamp duty reliefs has also taken away some of the urgency to move, though our high traffic and search data indicate that there is still strong buyer demand.

"However, higher prices combined with a lack of fresh choice coming to market are reducing some buyers’ ability or desire to move, and while we expect the market to remain robust, there are early signs of a slackening in the incredible pace of activity that we’ve seen over the last year. This super-charged activity cannot go on forever, but we expect the market to remain vigorous for at least the remainder of the year.”

Read more here.

New government proposals suggest that there should be a limit of 18 months from when planning permission was granted for building developers to progress with work (to the satisfaction of the local planning authority), otherwise planning permission may be revoked. The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee published The future of the planning system in England First Report on 10 June 2021.

Some industry-leading professionals agree that speeding up rates of home building will help to achieve the government target of 300,000 new homes a year, others are concerned it may cause a bottleneck in the industry. Simon Das of 978 Finance, said: “These proposals are simply a kick in the teeth for our house building clients. Instead of putting the onus on developers, the government should concentrate on reforming the antiquated and protracted planning process. The planning system itself and local opposition remain the main obstacles to new homes being built. We see developers waiting up to 18 months for planning approval, then having to reschedule their builds until they can bring in new contractors often due to delays on discharge of relatively simple pre-commencement conditions. Equally, in the current climate developers are struggling with the procurement of building materials with costs spiralling over the last year. Clearly, the last thing we want are house builders rushing or cutting corners, this will directly impact on profitability and ultimately build quality. Burdening developers with increasing penalties will only lead to a bottleneck situation, and if not handled carefully, be entirely counterproductive to the industry at large. Such proposals hardly bolster the entrepreneurial spirit or encourage the formation of new SME’s vital for attaining the build figures promised in the Conservative manifesto. An added layer of bureaucracy is surely not what is needed for post covid economic recovery”.
Read more here.

For the first time in six years, it is now cheaper to rent than to buy a property in nearly all UK locations. In early 2020 it would have been cheaper to get a mortgage than to rent throughout the whole of the UK. This is despite the cost of renting a home rising by over 7% in the period May 2020 to May 2021. In March 2020, someone with a 10% deposit would have been better off by £102 per month if they bought rather than rented. However, it was found that last month the average private-sector tenant was spending £71 a month less in rent. Currently, the biggest saving can be seen in the Greater London area, being £251 cheaper to rent than buying. 

Aneisha Beveridge, Hamptons' head of research said "A year ago, lenders were either increasing their rates or withdrawing higher loan-to-value mortgages altogether…For first-time buyers in particular this pushed up the cost of paying a mortgage, if they could get one at all, to well above the cost of renting." Although reducing mortgage rates will be offset by increasing house prices, Ms Beveridge still believes the trend will eventually be reversed during 2022.

Read more here.

This month saw the launch of the government’s First Homes scheme offering between 30% and 50% discounts for local first-time buyers and key workers in England. To be eligible, purchasers must be first time buyers, have an income of less than £80,000 pa (£90,000 in London) and have a particular key worker occupation, such as NHS staff, or be local to the area, although key workers will be a priority. Initially launched in Bolsover, Derbyshire, a further 1,500 sites are planned later in the year. What is different about this scheme is that the discount remains with the property, so the home will only be sold on to people eligible for the scheme and the discount received at the first point of sale will be passed on to future purchasers. Housing secretary, Robert Jenrick said: “These homes will be locked in for perpetuity to first-time buyers and key workers from their local area – making them an asset to both their owners and the wider local community.”

Read more here.

House prices have increased at their fastest rate in over 10 years, according to a recent report by the BBC.  In 2012 the average UK house price was a little under £165,000, almost a decade later that’s risen to £256,405 thanks to a sharp spike in prices since 2020 and the considerable amount of post-lockdown interest. The highest price rises are seen outside of the Capital as people look for a home to achieve a work/life balance. Whilst huge interest in the market has resulted in the proportion of houses available for sale dropping, the number of flats that are available, conversely, has slightly increased. The cladding crisis will have clearly played its part. With stories of people queuing up at estate agents doors and making offers prior to viewing properties, it seems that market activity will continue at high levels for quite a while yet.

A recent report from Shelter has slammed the housing system in England, describing it as “Unaffordable. Unfit. Unstable. Discriminatory.” Research involving 13,000 people highlighted issues such as going without food to pay the rent or mortgage and homes that were harmful to health, racism, and discrimination. With the cost of private rent rocketing, Shelter reports that families are forced into unfit homes, experiencing issues such as overcrowding, dampness, mould and condensation, and safety hazards. People reported feeling less secure in private rented accommodation and worried about reporting concerns due to fear of eviction. This affects 11 million private renters in the UK, a number that has doubled in the last 20 years. ‘No DSS’ policies and discrimination based on race, sexuality or being a single parent are reported as barriers to obtaining private rented homes. Resulting in a significant impact on the physical and mental well-being of those affected, Shelter believes the only way to tackle this crisis is for the government to build at least 90,000 new social homes each year in England. Read the report here.

Ongoing issues with the shortage of building materials have sparked a statement from John Newcomb, CEO of the Builders Merchants Federation and Peter Caplehorn, CEO of the Construction Products Association. Commenting that levels of demand are unprecedented both in the UK and globally, the joint co-chairs of the Construction Leadership Council’s Product Availability working group stressed the need for the industry to work collaboratively to complete projects. The new rules affecting the transport of goods has compounded the problem further, affecting the delivery of items in short supply such as steel, pitched roofing, plastic and paint/coatings, with some electrical components and cement becoming areas of concern. The Office for National Statistics indicates a price rise of around 7-8% for building materials should be expected and other items such as timber could double in price. With less buying power than the larger building companies, small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) are the hardest hit. The findings of the Federation of Master Builders State of Trade Survey for Q1 2021 reiterated that: “ongoing supply chain pressures caused by the coronavirus are a daily issue for builders unable to get hold of the products they need.” Whilst SMEs are reporting higher workloads, 93% of respondents reported they were experiencing higher material prices and over a third are struggling to hire bricklayers and carpenters. Read more here.  

14 local councils across England have been selected to take part in a six-month testing programme to Build Back Better. The National Design Code means to give councils a toolkit of design principles to ensure developments are beautiful and fit in with the local character. The project aims to enhance the character of the local area and test how communities can have more of a say in the design, appearance, and layout of buildings. As part of the pilot programme, each of the councils taking part will receive a £50,000 grant towards the project. Anna Rose, Head of the Planning Advisory Service said: “It is really exciting to see the National Model Design Code being tested by local councils across the country. The outcomes from this first set of pilots will help to build the capacity and collective learning that we need across the sector. I am looking forward to seeing what councils can achieve with their communities by using this new code...” The press release from the government gives details of the councils taking part, read here.

The ongoing debate over replacing natural gas with hydrogen for heating continues. Whilst oil and gas firms are pushing for the use of hydrogen when the country starts to phase out gas as a heating fuel, an article from the BBC explains that climate think tank E3G, WWF, and Greenpeace have sent a letter to the Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng urging the government to drop funding for "blue" hydrogen. Environmentalists state that heat pumps are a much better option. The article outlines the differences between "blue" and "green" hydrogen, and the views of those on either side of the argument.


Here are some interesting pages on the subject:
The World of Hydrogen has an information page on hydrogen and how it is made here.
E3G released a series of factsheets which you can find here.

A fire has broken out on a 19-storey tower block in Poplar, London this morning. It has been reported that parts of the eighth, ninth, and 10th floors are alight and more than 125 firefighters are on the scene. The tower block, called Providence Wharf, is reported to have "Grenfell-style" cladding. An article from January (here) explains how the company that built the block were one of those named as having failed to remove cladding on private developments post-Grenfell. At this stage, the cause of the fire is unknown. Read more here.

Restrictions are now in place on the sale of coal, wet wood and manufactured solid fuels for burning in the home. 

The restrictions, which came into force on 1 May, mean that: 

  • Sales of bagged traditional house coal and wet wood in units under 2m3 are now unlawful.
  • Wet wood in larger volumes must be sold with advice on how to dry it before burning.
  • All manufactured solid fuels must now have a low sulphur content and only emit a small amount of smoke.
  • In addition, a new certification scheme will see products certified and labelled by suppliers to ensure that they can be easily identified, and retail outlets will only able to sell fuel that is accompanied by the correct label.

The government press release describes how "Burning at home, particularly with traditional house coal or wet wood, is a major source of the pollutant PM2.5 – tiny particles which can enter the bloodstream and lodge in lungs and other organs. PM2.5 has been identified by the World Health Organisation as the most serious air pollutant for human health."

Read more here

The amount of households in the moving process is up by a staggering 50% based on a year-on-year comparison report by twentyci. The surge in house moving after the first lockdown has continued and figures indicate that Q1 2021 saw over 330,000 exchange of contracts, which is a year on year growth of nearly 55%. As a result of the buoyant market, there are concerns about whether there is enough stock to sustain these levels, with under two months of stock left in 530 districts of the UK. This is around half of what is usually available. Read the summary from twentyci here.

Making up around 7% of newly built properties each year, self and custom builds are to get support from the government to increase output by way of the government’s policy paper ‘Self and custom build action plan’. It is estimated that around 13,000 of these properties are built each year and according to the government, this could be increased considerably to around 30-40,000. Believing this market could make better use of smaller plots of land that are of no interest to larger developers, there will be help with access to finance, access to land, and expertise. Richard Bacon MP has also been commissioned by the Prime Minister to complete a review to come up with a plan to boost capacity and supply, and make recommendations to the government.

Surveys suggest that landlords' attitudes are changing when it comes to 'green mortgages'. This article said that a survey conducted in March by Mortgages for Business found that three in 5 (62% of the 300 surveyed) were interested in products that offer a lower rate for making their properties more energy efficient. Rewind twenty years and this statistic sat at just one in 10, and before 2000, Mortgages for Business said that no landlords were interested in green mortgages.

Jeni Browne, director of Mortgage to Business said: “Landlords’ attitudes have changed dramatically, particularly in the last decade. Landlords should be interested in these products though - quite apart from the ethical considerations, green mortgages reward landlords with a lower rate when they shrink their carbon footprint.”

More lenders are beginning to offer green mortgage products. The article touches on the new products that were recently launched by Keystone Property Finance (more on that here), and The Mortgage Works - Nationwide's specialist BLT arm. Read more here...

It has been reported that the UK will set radical new climate change commitments this week to cut carbon emissions by 78% by 2035. This brings the current target forward by 15 years, making it a "world-leading position".

This report from the BBC states that Leo Murray of the climate charity Possible called the announcement "fantastic", but added: "We're not on track to meet previous climate commitments and in many ways the government is still failing."
Mr Murray said ministers were "facing both directions at the same time", as they had scrapped the Green Homes Grant for insulating homes, had not stopped airport expansion and were "still pushing a £27bn roads budget".

Ed Matthew, campaigns director of environmental think tank E3G, said: "Setting an ambitious emission reduction target would boost the UK's diplomatic drive to persuade other countries to set out ambitious targets of their own."
He added: "The UK now has the opportunity to spark a global green industrial revolution, but ultimately its credibility will rest on action."
Read the article here.

This article from Property Reporter explains how new data from Halifax shows the gap between buying and renting has stretched by 8% in the last 12 months. When comparing the costs associated with a mortgage for a three-bed property to the costs of renting the same type of property, first-time buyers would be £800 better off than renters. In the last year, the monthly cost to rent has increased by 10% to £821, but the cost of mortgaging a property has only increased by 1% to £753. This is despite the average first-time buyer deposit increasing by £11,677 over the last year to £58,986. Click here to read more from Property Reporter.

This article by What Mortgage gives a broker’s view on the return of the 95% mortgage following the recent Budget where the government confirmed there would be a new Mortgage Guarantee scheme. It explains the new scheme, expected to be introduced around 19 April, will be similar to the Help to Buy scheme. It will give lenders protection when lending against 95% of the property value. In March 2020 there were 391 offers available for those with a 5% deposit; this dropped dramatically during the pandemic. Following the Budget announcement last month, six lenders have now re-introduced 5% deposit offers (albeit with certain criteria), bringing the current total to 29. Whilst this is still a long way off the number of offers available pre-pandemic, hopefully, the new scheme will see this number increase over the coming months. Read the article here.  

Properties in Wigan are selling faster than anywhere else in England and Wales, according to research conducted by Zoopla, taking an average of 26 days to reach an agreed sale. Other urban areas such as Leeds, Liverpool, Sheffield, and Manchester are selling within 34 days. Coastal areas have seen an improvement in the time to sell with Medway in Kent taking just 27 days to sell. The Isle of Wight is also experiencing a high level of popularity taking just 32 days to sell a property, which is 29 days quicker than the previous year. In Wales, Neath Port Talbot is taking 31 days and Bridgend 32 days to sell. The fastest-selling property type is a semi-detached 3 bedroomed home with a sale price of around £150,000 - £200,000. All of this results in a reduction in the supply of houses and the hotting up of competition amongst buyers. Overall, northern regions are experiencing the fastest-moving housing markets, with Medway, Isle of Wight and Bristol being the only southern regions to make it on to Zoopla’s top 20 list of fastest moving markets.

Read more here.

On 22 March the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee published the 2019-21 Energy Efficiency of Existing Homes report (read here). The report highlights the areas of concern in reaching our legally binding climate change targets. Below is a snapshot of what the summary explains:

  • There is a “chronic” shortage of skills in the retrofit sector
  • A greater focus is needed on retrofitting the existing housing sector
  • The Heat and Buildings Strategy must be urgently published, with the framework to drive more funding from private investment
  • New initiatives needed for owner-occupiers
  • VAT on home renovation labour and energy-saving materials should be reduced to 5%
  • EPCS must be overhauled by revealing not just the fuel cost, but the energy and carbon metrics in its headline rating.

The report covers the Green Homes Grant Scheme and states: “The Green Homes Grant is welcome, but has been poorly implemented, beset by administrative problems and delays which fundamentally jeopardise delivery 

Energy Efficiency of Existing Homes 4of the scheme’s ambition. It is too short term and is now causing damage to the sector. The impact of its botched implementation has had devastating consequences on many of the builders and installers that can do the work, who have been left in limbo as a result of the orders cancelled and time taken to approve applications. It has only achieved ten per cent of its target to improve 600,000 homes in six months. We welcome the Government’s commitment to improve the scheme. It must be urgently overhauled and extended to a multi-annual scheme to provide the financial support to homeowners and build trust within the industry to encourage installers to get accredited and enable companies to hire staff. This needs to be included in the Heat and Buildings Strategy as an urgent priority.”

It was reported over the weekend that the Green Homes Grant Scheme will be scrapped. An update was published on the gov.co.uk Green Homes Grant webpage today (29 March 2021) which confirms: “The Green Homes Grant scheme will be closing to new applications at 5pm on 31 March 2021.”

The National Housing Federation Summit heard from Robert Jenrick MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government as he made his speech at their conference. With a nod to the extensive programme of building social housing in the post-war era, he hopes new programmes of building can continue in the same spirit. Commenting on how the pandemic has taught us that good quality homes are vital, he wanted attention to be paid to building communities, and in light of Grenfell, the need for safer homes. He addressed the remediation of unsafe cladding and the impact on leaseholders. Referencing a cultural shift in the relationship between landlord and tenant, he spoke about the need to focus on service delivery, saying “…When things go wrong, as they inevitably sometimes do, tenants should be able to seek redress in a reasonable time without an uphill struggle and know that they will be heard…”. In concluding the speech he identified that the provision of more affordable housing will play a part to “…level up all parts of the country and our society as our recovery finally gets underway…”. 
Read the full speech here.

The Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) has told Taylor Wimpey and Countryside Properties to remove terms in their contracts that double ground rents every 10 or 15 years, saying it breaks consumer protection law. This comes following the launch of enforcement action by the CMA against four housing developers in September 2020 (here) for mis-selling and unfair contract terms relating to ground rents. The CMA’s chief executive Andrew Coscelli said “These ground rent terms can make it impossible for people to sell or get a mortgage on their homes, meaning they find themselves trapped. This is unacceptable. Countryside and Taylor Wimpey must entirely remove all these terms from existing contracts to make sure that they are on the right side of the law."…"If these developers do not address our concerns, we will take further action, including through the courts, if necessary." Read the government’s press release here.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced changes to the way councils use Right to Buy funds, giving them more freedom to build the types of homes needed in their communities. Taking effective from 1 April 2021, this will include shared ownership, First Homes (first-time buyers) and housing at affordable and social rent. The programme also allows councils more time to develop larger building programmes in their area. Local Government Association Chairman Councillor James Jamieson said "...Extending the time limit for spending Right to Buy receipts and increasing the proportion of a new home that councils can fund using receipts will boost councils’ ability to build desperately-needed affordable housing for local communities….”. 

Read the announcement here.

The RICS has issued new guidance to help valuers understand when an EWS1 form should be required due to visible cladding. The guidance should help to create consistency across the valuation market. The web page includes example case studies and has a useful decision tree to help decide if an EWS1 form is required.

The new guidance is effective from 5 April 2021, but early adoption is encouraged. Click here to read more.

The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) has launched the programme CO2nstruct Zero in which they aim to play a collaborative role across the industry to drive carbon out of all parts of the construction sector. In recognising a need for significant change, the CLC believes the industry must work more effectively together. The key elements of this programme include:

  • Consolidation of current industry efforts into a single programme and plan of action to deliver against the CO2nstruct Zero priorities.
  • Setting out clear and ambitious targets to demonstrate that the sector is making the right progress.
  • Championing the policy change needed from the Government.
  • Signpost people across the industry towards the action they can take.

The CLC acknowledges how well the industry worked together during the pandemic and wants to use this momentum to start tackling climate issues. They will be publishing performance data each quarter which will be available to both government and the public. Andy Mitchell, CLC Co-chair said, “… we have a responsibility to the people who work on our projects and to those who use our buildings and infrastructure to find a better way to build…"

Read more here.

The 2021 Budget has been announced and it was confirmed that the stamp duty holiday on house purchases in England and Northern Ireland has been extended to June 2021. Therefore, there will continue to be no tax liability on property sales of less than £500,000. After this date, the starting rate of stamp duty will be £250,000 until the end of September. Stamp duty will then return to the usual threshold and will apply for properties sold for more than £125,000.

Click here for a quick summary of the key points of the Budget from the BBC

The RICS is looking for technical and general feedback on the draft guidance note Valuation of residential leasehold properties for secured lending purposes in England and Wales to ensure it is understandable and covers the key challenges. RICS would like respondents to highlight anything that is missing from the guidance and make sure it suitably highlights good practice and impending reform. 

The draft guidance covers the key challenges in valuing residential leasehold properties such as lease terms and costs of occupancy (e.g. service charge, ground rent). Some leasehold charges have proved controversial in the market and the guidance raises awareness of their implications. The guidance discusses the legislation that allows leaseholders to secure a lease extension or purchase of the freehold under certain circumstances and their implications for valuation. The UK government set out summary proposals committing to further leasehold reform in a written statement of January 2021. At the time of consultation, the UK government has not produced a detailed timetable for proposed reforms. However, the subject guidance brings attention to the issue for valuers and wider stakeholders.  

The consultation closes on 5 March 2021. You can find the consultation page here

On 16 February, a new five-year lending alliance between United Trust Bank (UTB) – an established specialist lender – and the government’s housing delivery agency Homes England, was announced. The new £250m fund will support small and medium-sized builders with development finance up to 70% Loan to Gross Development Value (between £1m and £10m). This funding should help to drive diverse housing in the years to come.

Noel Meredith, Executive Director, United Trust Bank said: “SME housebuilders have a vital role to play in delivering the UK’s new housing needs and UTB has amassed considerable experience helping such businesses to complete thousands of successful developments. This is an exciting new partnership with Homes England which will make a real difference to both long established and newly formed development companies requiring competitive funding and the long-term support of a knowledgeable and experienced specialist lender. This alliance will help to reinvigorate and increase diversity in the SME housebuilding sector, and boost housing supply in areas under the greatest affordability pressures.”
Read more here.

The Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association (IMLA) has issued a response to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS) ‘Improving home energy performance through lenders consultation, which closed on 12th February. IMLA accepts that lenders have a pivotal role to play in tackling climate change and recognises the increasing number of green mortgages on the market. However, they are concerned that reporting on the average EPC rating of all properties they lend against is a potential waste of time and resources for the lender. Wanting them instead to be able to devote this time to helping homeowners to make improvements to their property, IMLA’s executive director Kate Davies said “…these latest proposals from BEIS are highly unlikely to bring about real change. Rather, they would oblige lenders to devote way too much time compiling and disclosing data in an exercise which – at the end of the day – won’t change a single low-energy lightbulb.”. Read the IMLA article here.  

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has announced that Peter Baker, their current Director of Building Safety and Construction, will start in the new post of Chief Inspector of Buildings immediately. This comes following recommendations in the Dame Judith Hackitt report, ‘Building a Safer Future’ following the Grenfell tragedy. In response to the appointment, Peter Baker says “I am honoured to be appointed as the first Chief Inspector of Buildings and for the opportunity to play a lead role in bringing about the biggest change in building safety for a generation. I look forward to working with government, industry, partner regulators, and residents to shape and deliver a world-class, risk-based regulatory system for the safety and standards of buildings that residents can have confidence in and that we can all be proud of.” 

HSE’s announcement can be found here.

The Chancellor has announced that the next Budget will take place on 3 March 2021, after having moved it from Autumn 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Clearly, it comes at a very difficult time as the economy deals with the fallout from the pandemic and Brexit. Indeed the Office for Budget Responsibility indicates the country has seen “a steeper decline than experienced in any quarter during the financial crisis or in any post-war recession”. Keen for the government to appreciate how the building industry has helped and can continue to support the economy in these difficult times, Andy Mitchell, co-chair of the Construction Leadership Council has written an open letter to Rishi Sunak. Recognising the support and guidance the UK government has given the industry in keeping sites open, he urges the chancellor to consider some key interventions to continue to build growth and confidence in the sector. These include; committing to a national retrofit strategy, extending the stamp duty holiday and the extension of employer apprenticeship incentives. Read the full letter here.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has opened a consultation seeking views on the draft revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework and the draft National Model Design Code. 

The Framework is not yet going to be renewed in its entirety and a fuller review is likely to be required in due course. However, this consultation seeks views on the revised text to implement policy changes in response to the Building Better Building Beautiful Commission “Living with Beauty” report. Here is a summary of the proposed amendments to the Framework:

  • Implements policy changes in response to the Building Better Building Beautiful Commission recommendations
  • Makes a number of changes to strengthen environmental policies – including those arising from our review of flood risk with Defra
  • Includes minor changes to clarify policy in order to address legal issues
  • Includes changes to remove or amend out of date material
  • Includes an update to reflect a recent change made in a Written Ministerial Statement about retaining and explaining statues.
  • Clarification on the use of Article 4 directions

The draft National Model Design Code provides detailed guidance on the production of design codes, guides and policies to promote successful design.

The government would like views on the National Model Design Code, in terms of
a) the content of the guidance
b) the application and use of the guidance
c) the approach to community engagement

The consultation will close at 11.45pm on 27 March 2021. You can find the consultation page here.

The government has announced an extra £3.5 billion of funding to remove unsafe cladding for all leaseholders in residential buildings 18 metres (6 storeys) and over in England. The press release published today (10 February 2021), lists the 5-point plan announced by government:

1. Government will pay for the removal of unsafe cladding for leaseholders in all residential buildings 18 metres (6 storeys) and over in England
2. Generous finance scheme to provide reassurance for leaseholders in buildings between 11 and 18 metres (4 to 6 storeys), ensuring they never pay more than £50 a month for cladding removal
3. An industry levy and tax to ensure developers play their part
4. A world-class new safety regime to ensure a tragedy like Grenfell never happens again
5. Providing confidence to this part of the housing market including lenders and surveyors

The press release also confirms “Lower-rise buildings, with a lower risk to safety, will gain new protection from the costs of cladding removal with a generous new scheme offered to buildings between 11 and 18 metres. This will pay for cladding removal – where it is needed – through a long-term, low interest, government-backed financing arrangement.”

Read the full press release here.

This is a really interesting question and one that was recently raised by PropertyChecklists.co.uk here. Most of us perceive it to be beautiful and undulating countryside which is protected from building on at all costs. But, this is not the case and the Green Belt can include power stations, hospitals and schools for example. Designated as such in the 1930s, the Green Belt was intended to stop cities merging and encroaching on the countryside. England has around 1.6 million hectares of Green Belt and this is in addition to protected areas such as National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. According to the government’s National Planning Policy Framework, the purpose of the Green Belt is; to check the sprawl of large built-up areas, prevent towns merging, safeguard the countryside, preserve the character of historic towns, and encourage the recycling of derelict and other urban land. While development considered harmful to the Green Belt should not be approved, there are exceptions such as limited infilling in villages, limited affordable housing for local community needs. Each year, between two and three per cent of new homes are built in the Green Belts in England. Read the article here.

The RICS has published an article about Hart v Large, written by the law firm RPC. The article looks at the facts of the Hart v Large case, and addresses surveyors’ duties, following the ruling, in context of the new RICS Home Survey Standard which is due to come into force on 1 March 2021. Concerning surveyors’ duties, the key areas covered include:

  • Expertise and type of survey
  • Further investigations
  • Professional Consultants Certificates
  • Limitations
  • Continuing obligations

It points out that this case turned on the unusual facts and does not represent a departure from the principles governing the measure of loss in claims made against surveyors. However, the Home Survey Standard gives surveyors an opportunity to review their duties and obligations when carrying out building surveys of any kind.

Read the article here.

You may recall that in October 2019 the government released a consultation on the proposed changes to Part L (conservation of fuel and power) and F (ventilation) of the Building Regulations – called 'The Future Homes Standard’ (as we reported here). The second part of the consultation has now been published (here) as 'The Future Buildings Standard’. 

This consultation closes on 13 April 2021 and looks at changes to Part L and Part F of the Building Regulations for non-domestic buildings and dwellings; and overheating in new residential buildings.  

Prior to this consultation, and accordance with the Climate Change Committee’s statutory report in 2015, the government conducted research (report here) into overheating in new homes. It highlighted that during warm years most new homes in England would experience overheating, with London having a particular issue because of its higher temperatures. Overheating can impact on the health and welfare of the occupants and these issues can be associated with sleep loss. One of the questions posed in this consultation is whether the reduction of window sizes to mitigate overheating would provide adequate daylight and avoid the need for excess lighting in winter. As part of the consultation, internal curtains and blinds and overshading from trees are to be excluded as means of shading.

You can find the consultation here.

The government has announced a new national regulator for construction products to ensure houses are built from safe materials. This has come in response to the ongoing Grenfell Tower inquiry which highlighted safety rules had been ignored by manufacturers. This new regulator will be able to complete tests on products of concern and will also have powers to remove products from the market if they are deemed to pose a significant safety risk. Chair of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, Dame Judith Hackitt, said: "This is another really important step in delivering the new regulatory system for building safety. The evidence of poor practice and lack of enforcement in the past has been laid bare. As the industry itself starts to address its shortcomings I see a real opportunity to make great progress in conjunction with the national regulator". Read the government announcement here.

Last week Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick announced ‘Right to Regenerate’ proposals which would make it easier for the public to challenge councils and other public organisations to release land for redevelopment.

According to the latest figures, there are over 25,000 vacant council-owned homes, and 100,000 empty council-owned garages.

Housing Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said:
"Right to Regenerate is the simple way to turn public land into public good, with land sold by default, unless there is a very compelling reason not to do so.

"We are cutting through red tape so that communities can make better use of available land and derelict buildings, which means more new homes, businesses, and community assets.

"Millions of people will now be able to buy that empty property, unused garage or parcel of land and turn it into something good for them and their community.”
Read the press release here.

The consultation can be found here and closes on 13 March 2021.

It has been reported that over 50 key industry bodies and estate agents have written to the housing secretary Robert Jenrick urging the government to adopt UPRNs (unique property reference numbers) across the housing market. It is claimed that UPRNs will improve building safety, help enforcement, weed out rogue landlords, speed up the home buying process, empower the consumer and, increase income for the Treasury.

The letter also outlines conditions to avoid bureaucracy within the housing market, which some agents fear may occur. Read more in this article from The Negotiator.

The requirements for an EWS1 form are rapidly changing; in November we reported that forms were no longer required for buildings which did not have cladding. New proposals from RICS could potentially see many more buildings taken out of scope. RICS has launched a public consultation on guidance called "Valuation of properties in multi-storey, multi-occupancy residential buildings with cladding".  The intention is to help by setting out a consistent position for valuers carrying out mortgage valuations on when EWS1 forms should be requested for buildings with cladding, before valuing a property, to avoid unnecessary delays. The press release from RICS (here) includes more detail on the criteria proposed, and contributions are welcome from all. You can find the consultation here

This article from Mortgage Solutions includes a summary of the proposals and comments from RICS head of valuation standards Ben Elder, and Joe Arnold, managing director of Arnold & Baldwin Chartered Surveyors. Read here.

Further to the government’s recent announcement on leasehold reform, an article from Leasehold Solutions reports the ability to extend a lease to 990 years is just "window dressing" and falls short of what is needed. Anna Bailey, Founder and CEO of the Leasehold Group, believes the extension is likely to further confuse the market, saying: “Giving leaseholders the opportunity to extend their lease by 990 years is actually a moot point; a leaseholder already has the right to extend their lease by 90 years and reduce their ground rent to a “peppercorn” (i.e. zero) under existing legislation, and, arguably, there is virtually no difference in the value of a leasehold property with a 990-year lease compared to a 160-year lease.” Welcoming the announcement that a Commonhold Council will be formed Anna said: “The composition of the Council also needs to be representative and must include a wide range of experienced, expert voices, including those leaseholders and managing agents with first-hand experience of running blocks of flats, to ensure that any proposals are realistic and workable.” 

Find the full article here.