Housing can play a key part in the economic and social recovery after the pandemic and the next Government should embark on an impact assessment to improve housing needs based on costs, quality, design, and the role of housing in community life. The pandemic and national lockdown measures have highlighted housing needs and shone a light on space, local amenities, and connectivity.
Regulation of sales agents
Currently, estate agents across the UK are not required by law to be licensed or qualified. Estate agents are principally regulated by the Estate Agents Act 1979 and the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. In addition, since 1 October 2008, all estate agents in the UK who engage in residential estate agency work are required to belong to an approved redress scheme under the Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Act 2007.
Therefore, it is essential that the future Government supports the regulation of estate agents, which will offer huge potential to professionalise the sector, eradicate bad practices and provide a smoother consumer experience. This will also ensure the profession understands the recommendations of the Regulation of Property Agents (RoPA) Working Group as it is vital that all sales agents are licensed, adhere to a strict code of practice, and hold at least a Level 6 qualification.
Review LBTT bands
Whilst policy makers may believe that those buying prime property are less sensitive to tax changes, sales in the middle and high end of the market have slowed since the introduction of LBTT. The rates should be reviewed to support home buying particularly for those looking to climb the housing ladder and second steppers. This should include amending the bands to extend the five per cent levy to properties worth up to £500,000, halving the amount of tax that buyers of homes in that price range currently pay.
Oppose rent control
The introduction of stricter rent control measures could lead to a reduction in supply, which will have a negative impact on housing quality. The legislation introduced in December 2017 under the Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act 2016 already contains a limit on rent increases and Propertymark calls for further rent controls are not introduced.
Action on cladding and fire safety
The £97.149m Building Safety Fund allocated at the UK Budget in March 2020 to support people living in multi-storey residential buildings should be utilised by the next Scottish Government. It is important that dangerous cladding on existing buildings is replaced and communal fire alarm and sprinkler systems are introduced. Without action, many properties will be unsaleable and not adequate to be rented out.
Improve housing energy efficiency
Housing in Scotland compromises a range of property and building types and the future Government should take a holistic approach to improve the energy efficiency of housing. It must look beyond a one-size-fits-all approach and develop proposals that work with the different age, condition, and size of properties across all tenures.
Bring back empty homes
More action is needed on empty homes as they can lower land values and make it harder to sell other properties nearby. Bringing empty homes back into use can ease the pressure on housing stock and help improve local communities. Greater incentives should be provided for people to bring empty properties back into use and give more support to local authorities to help them provide dedicated resources to tackle the issue.
Investment and boost supply of housing
Five key areas have been defined by Propertymark that the next Scottish Government must do to provide investment for all housing tenures and to boost the supply of rented housing.
- Commitment to a significant programme of building social housing will ensure that renting is more affordable and secure for all renters.
- Reduce the 4 per cent surcharge on additional homes to encourage further investment in the PRS
- Build housing for older people and provide incentives to downsize
- Financial support for energy efficiency improvements
- Reintroduce the Help to Buy Affordable New Build scheme