One thing all the political parties agree on, is that housing will be a big issue at the next election, on May 7. Everyone accepts that more properties need to be built. The Conservatives say that, if elected, they will deliver 100,000 new homes, at a 20 per cent discount, to first-time buyers under 40. At the same time, they hope to appeal to everyday homeowners and homebuyers by fixing stamp duty to between zero and four per cent, on houses worth less than £937,500. Meanwhile, up at the top end of the market, they are increasing it to 7.9 per cent on houses sold for £2.1 million, pushing up the stamp duty bill by around £18,500. But the increases are even more marked in Scotland, where the stamp duty on a £900,000 house is increasing by 92 per cent. For its part, the Labour Party has promised to double the number of first-time buyers over the next 10 years. At the same time, they aim to build 200,000 new homes, many of them in the form of social and local authority housing. As well, of course, as introducing a “mansion tax”, whereby owners of homes worth £2-3 million will pay an extra £250 tax per month. It’s envisaged that owners of second homes, and properties worth “tens of millions” would pay even more. For their part, the Liberal Democrats intend to raise more revenue by reviewing council tax bands, and by increasing the amount payable on £2m-plus properties. The party has also announced its intention to build 300,000 new homes per year. Some of these will be social housing, and some will take the form of newly-created garden cities, built along the railway-line between Oxford and Cambridge. There has also been a small, if tentative carrot, extended towards owners of listed properties. On a recent visit to the House of Commons, representatives of the Listed Property Owners Club received qualified support from Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and UKIP, in regards to reducing VAT on repairs and alterations. All this activity takes place, of course, in an economic climate that has seen home ownership rise out of many people’s reach. Fine for those who already own their home; not so good for those who see house prices rising ever faster than wages. There is no question that all the political parties want more people on the housing ladder. The hard part, though, is helping people get a grip on that first rung. This year’s election certainly promises interesting times for those who are planning to trade-up and those who are preparing to take their first step.
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