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A changing of the Guard

Published: 20/09/2022 By Tam van Wyk

Yesterday, Monday Sept 19th, the entire country came to a halt as we paid tribute to one of history’s longest-serving monarchs. Wherever we were from, whether rich or poor, young or old, for one day at least, it brought us all together to celebrate the life of someone who had become the nation’s de facto grandmother. It was a truly moving spectacle, full of pomp and ceremony and a fantastic advert to the rest of the world for everything that is good about the UK.

Now it’s all change - there is a new monarch, Charles III, and a new Prime Minister, Liz Truss, and the hope is they will bring with them a fresh sense of purpose. Liz Truss has had more time than Charles to get her feet under the table and has already managed to take some of the fear out of the rising cost of energy. Her solution is not perfect – our energy bills will still be a serious expense, but not crippling. Overall, though, she appears to be taking a more pragmatic approach than Boris, and that includes net zero. It is now up to her new Minister for Housing – Simon Clarke – to make sure the same approach is taken with the property market. In particular, he should ensure energy performance targets for older housing stock are at least realistic. Liz Truss is also more pro-business and intends to cut both tax and red tape, wherever possible and there are rumours she will reduce stamp duty in her upcoming mini-budget.

In the meantime, the sales market is continuing to outperform expectations. It did soften slightly in August, but by no more than usual, and Rightmove is still predicting the price of the average UK home will be up by 7% at the end of the year. The rental market, on the other hand, is in need of some attention. There is, currently, a chronic shortage of stock, which is pushing up rents at an unprecedented rate. Unlike Simon Clarke’s predecessors, he therefore needs to urgently encourage fresh investment in the sector. And, in the medium-term, if he wants a properly functioning housing market, for both sales and lettings, one of his key priorities has to be encouraging the building of new homes. It’s what housing professionals and commentators have been calling for for years. Hopefully, this time, the government will be listening.