George Osborne delivered a thoroughly disappointing Budget for the housing market today with scant reference to initiatives to assist the supply of new build properties.
In previous speeches too, the chancellor has waxed lyrical about purchase initiatives such as help to buy (1 and 2) and help to buy ISAs etc however, today, nothing was laid out.
It seems that George has become antagonistic toward the housing market, using it as his cash-cow in so far as raising stamp duty land tax (SDLT), using SDLT as a penalty mechanism to cream money from help to buy landlords and second home owners and further penalising the former with an imminent reduction in tax relief for high rate payers.
Of some respite would be the announcement that capital gains tax is to be slashed from 28 per cent to 20 per cent and 18 per cent to 10 per cent, depending on your earnings. This would have been a shining light for those beleaguered second property owners looking to exit their hard hit property assets were it not for the fact that George has decided to exempt residential property from the reduction. Ouch.
Stamp duty equalisation on commercial property purchase (now sliced not slabbed), and with regard to institutional residential property purchase, is fair. Small business rate relief thresholds substantially increasing is very welcome too.
However, the chancellor missed another trick in assisting housing supply and should have set out some robust measures to force councils to identify land for building and turn it over for development. He also could have relaxed stamp duty and made it fairer by making the seller responsible for it and at a flat rate across the board.
But unfortunately, fairness and the housing market, are not two things that you will see in the same sentence where the Treasury is concerned currently it seems.