Chancellor Phillip Hammond claims over 60,000 first time buyers have already benefitted from the stamp duty relief he announced at his November Budget.
From late November, all first time buyer purchases up to £300,000 paid no stamp duty, and for first time buyers inside London there has been no stamp duty on the first £300,000 of their purchase.
Claims made by the government since November, regarding the numbers of first timers benefitting from the change, have been queried by industry organisations including the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and the Nationwide.
In his Spring Statement to the House of Commons this lunchtime, Hammond also said an investment programme of £44 billion had been agreed to lift housing supply to 300,000 a year by the mid-2020s.
The government will also invest £1.7 billion to create another 26,000 affordable homes in London, and in addition housing minister Dominic Raab is said to be working with 44 local councils that have bid for a £4.1 billion housing infrastructure fund.
Responding to the Spring Statement, London estate agents and former RICS residential chairman Jeremy Leaf said: “We welcome the Chancellor’s reiteration of the importance of the housing market and how tackling the housing crisis is key to all other economic policies, with particular reference to longer-term building projects and trying to address capacity issues by giving further assistance to apprenticeships.
“However, at grass roots level what we are really lacking is supply and transaction numbers. If these were to be improved, on the one hand it would keep property prices in check and on the other it would generate real benefits for not just the housing market but for the economy as a whole.
“The stamp duty concessions have definitely prompted more interest among first-time buyers, who are often taking the place of investors at the lower end of the market. But further help is needed to make a real difference, not just at the bottom end of the market but right through to the top end if we are to achieve genuine growth.”
From the PropTech sector, Neil Cobbold – chief operating officer of automated lettings payment platform PayProp in the UK – said the statement was a missed opportunity.
“One issue that is potentially being overlooked is affordable housing in the private rental sector. Private tenants now account for a fifth of all households and the latest annual English Housing Survey shows that renting is now the largest housing tenure in London. It could, therefore, be beneficial to move away from the notion that everyone wants to buy a home, embrace the rental revolution and work out how to provide more high-quality, affordable rental housing” he says.
On the claim that 60,000 first time buyers had benefitted from the stamp duty changes announced three months ago, Cobbold said it would be valuable for the government to shift focus towards the three per cent stamp duty surcharge on additional homes and how it affected the rental market during the two years it has been in operation.