Theresa May goes flat at the Conservative party Conference in Manchester 2017

 

One word that came away from the Conservative party conference in Manchester was ‘flat’. It was a sobering word and consistent amongst opinions of those that attended.

This week, 1st-4th October 2017 saw Theresa May perch at her stand and deal with the many challenges the conference threw at her. The mood was one of ‘cheer up Theresa’. Should we be sympathetic or believe she has brought this upon herself? I guess that is a matter of personal opinion.

Earlier on in the conference, the government announced a cash injection to secure status of ‘Help to Buy to 2021’. The Prime minister revealed that £10bn of funding for the Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme will be available to ensure its continued operation to 2021. This action appeared to be an effort to appeal to younger voters. A challenge that May has faced since the vote.

The concern about the Conservative’s enthusiasm to help with the scheme is that funding may deplete too quickly.

In his speech, Chancellor Philip Hammond said, “The additional funding would be used to ensure the scheme is resourced and able to continue until 2021.”

He added, “Help to Buy: Equity Loan has achieved much higher take-up than we expected, helping 130,000 families so far with a deposit for their own home.

The figures published by DCLG last week revealed:

  • The previous 12 months had seen £2.55bn spent on equity loans
  • The Homes and Communities Agency’s annual accounts, published during the summer, confirmed that having forecast 30,000 completions, the scheme actually supported more than 40,000 households to buy a home during 2016/17
  • The success of the London Help to Buy scheme, with 40% equity loans since last year saw uptake in the capital rise by 95% in Q2 2017 compared with the same period in 2016. Help to Buy completions in London now account for 10% by number but 25% by value of equity loans

Over the last 12 months, the HBF has been engaged with Government at various levels. They stressed the need for clarity, both on the position up to 2021, but also the future post-2021. On the latter point, the government said, “We will continue to press ministers and officials on the benefits of indicating as soon as possible its intentions beyond March 2021.”

To exaggerate the benefits of the Help to Buy scheme for homebuyers and communities around the country, HBF last week published ‘Stepping Up’, exploring the economic benefits of the scheme to date. Its publication came as HBF published its latest Housing Pipeline study showing that the number of plots granted planning permission in the last 12 months reached the highest number since the quarterly research began in 2006.

Whilst Mr Hammond’s speech was somewhat reassuring, the rest of the conference was somewhat bland.  That said, the Conservative party appeared resilient. Theresa May was focused on fixing the broken housing market.

The Prime Minister’s much anticipated speech included the following:

  • Home ownership and housing supply – building on the announcement earlier in the week of extra funding for the Help to Buy scheme, she announced the investment of an additional £2bn in affordable housing, to be bid for by councils and housing associations to deliver new social rented homes, ‘getting government back into the business of building homes
  • Following the decision to bolster the budget for Help to Buy, the PM also used her speech to send ‘the clearest possible message to our house builders’. She said: “We, the government, will make sure the land is available. We’ll make sure our young people have the skills you need. In return, you must do your duty to Britain and build the homes our country needs.’
  • Addressing the importance of tackling the housing crisis, Mrs May said:

“I will dedicate my premiership to fixing this problem – to restoring hope. To renewing the British Dream for a new generation of people.  And that means fixing our broken housing market. “

  • Turning to the £10bn injection of funding into the Help to Buy scheme, the PM directly linked the party’s failure to secure a majority at the General Election with its inability to connect with young voters on housing issues: “Because it will take time for greater housebuilding to translate into more affordable house prices, we have introduced schemes like Help to Buy to support people who are struggling right now. But the election result showed us that this is not nearly enough. We’ve listened and we’ve learned. So this week, the Chancellor announced that we will help over 130,000 more families with the deposit they need to buy their own home by investing a further £10 billion in Help to Buy.”

The Prime minister closed the conference with a speech where she pledged to ‘renew the British dream’.

Mrs May said she would take personal charge of ‘reigniting home ownership’ and delivering affordable housing for a new generation.  If so, let’s see what she is able to drive.

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