Mortgage lenders and brokers have hit out at the ‘merry-go-round’ of housing ministers and the messy housing policy that has resulted.
Members of the Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association said that constant ministerial reshuffles – the ‘elephant in the room ‘ – have resulted in inconsistency and a lack of direction when it comes to the housing market.
They also criticised the fact that successive housing ministers have lacked, and continue to lack, the status and clout of a seat in the Cabinet.
When Gavin Barwell became the latest housing minister in July, he became the sixth in six years – following John Healey, Grant Shapps, Mark Prisk, Kris Hopkins and Brandon Lewis.
In the Labour administration which preceded the Coalition and Conservative governments, there were nine housing ministers in 13 years.
Almost six in ten lenders (59%) say that this state of flux has adversely affected the mortgage and property market. Two-fifths (42%) of mortgage brokers agree, in the latest IMLA survey of its members.
Just over half of lenders (52%) believe the housing minister should have a Cabinet role.
IMLA members also criticised government policy for focusing on the wrong things.
Lenders said that the forthcoming Autumn Statement on November 23 is likely to prioritise first-time buyers, social housing and shared ownership, when it should prioritise private landlords, last-time buyers and house building.
Brokers did not think the Chancellor should prioritise build-to-rent – the private rented sector part of the industry which requires institutional investment.
Peter Williams, executive director of IMLA, said: “The Government’s lack of clear, structured housing policy has been an elephant in the room for some time now.
“Successive administrations have made pledges and promises to change this, but it’s never been fully followed through with any real comprehensive long-term policy.
“Initiatives and schemes have stimulated bursts of activity, and the mortgage market itself has adapted to evolving consumer needs over time, but until such fundamental issues as the continued under-supply of housing, the backlog of unmet demand and the role of different tenures are properly addressed, then the same issues will crop up time and again.
“Responsibility doesn’t just lie with the housing minister, though, and it would be good to see the Chancellor address the housing supply issue further in his Autumn Statement.
“We would also like to see Philip Hammond delay or reverse the tax relief changes which will impact on the rental market and the capacity of that sector to provide homes for those who can’t get into home-ownership.
“However, our member survey shows lenders aren’t too optimistic that this will happen.”