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Announcements from the UK’s Labour party on policies it would introduce if it wins the general election on rent controls and stamp duty for first time buyers have been met with considerable criticism from the property industry. Under the party's plans to tackle the country’s lack of new housing, Labour leader Ed Miliband said he would introduce a ‘first call’ policy that would give first time buyers who have lived in an area for more than three years priority on up to half of new homes. He also announced that he would scrap stamp duty for first time buyers on homes worth up to £300,000 and said foreign buyers would be subject to higher taxes and a ‘local first’ policy would ensure properties are advertised in the UK before they are promoted overseas. Miliband claimed that cutting stamp duty to zero would benefit nine out of 10 people buying their first home and could save up to £5,000. It would fund the stamp duty plans by tackling tax avoidance by landlords, pointing to HMRC figures that estimate it costs £550 million a year. Labour would want the creation of a national register of landlords, saying this would could tax avoidance by landlords by 20% and bring in £100 million for Treasury coffers. Tax relief for landlords to cover the upkeep of furnished properties would also be reduced for rogue landlords that rent out sub-standard properties. Also, under the plan private landlords would be banned from introducing above inflation rent rises over a three year period and landlords and letting agents would be required to disclose the rent paid by previous tenants, to allow renters to negotiate the best possible deal at the start of a contract. Mr Miliband said Labour's plan would help create ‘a stable, decent, prosperous private rental market where landlords and tenants can succeed together’. Jeremy Blackburn, head of policy at the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) said that while the proposed stamp duty reform could help some first time buyers in the market, it’s another measure that tinkers with demand side stimulus. ‘Prices are already predicted to rise in the next parliament and this is only likely to make matters worse. The promise of one million homes by 2020 is an ambitious target, but Labour has not fully explained how they expect to remove obstacles to such a supply- ide revolution. What we need is a drastic increase in supply,’ he added. Building affordable homes is a better way of solving the housing crisis than reducing stamp duty, according to housing charity Shelter. ‘While reducing stamp duty may help at the margins, the only way to give generation rent a fighting chance of their own home is to tackle the root causes of our housing crisis by building the affordable homes we desperately need,’ said chief executive Campbell Robb. Mark Hayward, managing director, National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA), welcomed the policy on stamp duty for first time buyers, saying… Continue reading →
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