0537 GMT February 23, 2020
The Treasury is weighing up a new ‘Help to Buy’ proposal whereby landlords would not have to pay capital gains tax when selling up to tenants who had been living in a property for at least three years, theguardian.com reported.
The plan has been drawn up by the right-wing think tank Onward, which suggests the £1.3 billion-a-year cost of the policy could be covered by curtailing other tax perks enjoyed by buy-to-let investors.
“Today’s renters are older, more likely to be in rented property for longer and more likely to have children than any generation before them,” said the Onward director, Will Tanner, who is a former Downing Street policy chief.
Under existing rules, investors who sell a rental property are liable to pay capital gains tax at 28 percent on any profits they make, which is a big disincentive to selling up. Under the Onward plan the ‘Good Landlord’ would be eligible for tax relief with the windfall split equally with the tenant, who could use it as part of their mortgage deposit.
The think tank estimates that the average gain per property would be £15,000, meaning a first-time buyer could expect to benefit by £7,500. Because the gain is affected by property prices and their historical growth, a tenant in London could receive £19,500 under the scheme.
An estimated 88,000 households could take up the relief each year, meaning nearly half a million households could benefit over five years. Accounting for multiple-person households, this would help a million people move from the private rented sector into homeownership by 2023, Onward claims.
However, previous attempts by the government to tackle the housing crisis, such as the ‘Help to Buy’ subsidy scheme, have been criticized for pushing prices up and actually making the problem worse.
The plan emerged as research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) shed light on the collapse in the number of young Britons who own their own homes. In 1996, more than 90 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds could afford to buy the cheapest house in their area, provided they had a 10-percent deposit and borrowed 4.5 times their salary, its analysis showed. However, in 2016 only 60 percent of young adults could do the same.
“Big increases in house prices compared to incomes over the last two decades mean that it is increasingly difficult for young adults to get on the housing ladder, even if they do manage to save a 10-percent deposit,” the IFS research economist, Polly Simpson, said.
“Many young adults cannot borrow enough to buy a cheap home in their area, let alone an average-priced one. These trends have increased inequality between older and younger generations, and within the younger generation, too.”
Other studies have suggested that one in three millennials are unlikely to ever own their home, with many forced to live and raise families in insecure private rental accommodation throughout their lives. The IFS has previously said that the chances of a young adult on a middle income owning a home in the UK had more than halved in the past two decades.
After adjusting for inflation, average house prices in England have risen by 173 percent since 1997, compared with increases in young adults’ real incomes of only 19 percent, according to the IFS.
As a result of this the share of 25- to 34-year-olds who own their own home fell from 55 percent to 35 percent between 1997 and 2017. The picture is particularly bleak in London, where by 2016 only one in three young adults could borrow enough to buy their first home, whereas 20 years earlier that figure was 90 percent.
The IFS said the key to resolving the housing crisis is to increase the supply of homes available but it points to major hurdles such as tough planning restrictions — for instance, those protecting green belt land — that hold back their construction in high-demand areas such as London and the south-east.
Easing planning restrictions would increase homeownership and reduce both property prices and rents, the IFS said, concluding: “Without increasing supply, policies to help young adults get on to the housing ladder will continue to push up house prices — and potentially rents too.”