The month of December is often an odd one in property – a mix of rushing to get deals and jobs completed before the Christmas break interspersed with a busy round of networking and socialising.
It can be a difficult one to balance, so throwing into that the unseasonal confusion as to what on earth is going to happen in the General Election on 12th December makes it even more of a whirlwind.
To that end I thought it worthwhile spending a bit of time picking through the three main party’s election manifestos to see what property-related festive cheer (or otherwise) they are proposing to dish out for us assuming they get their Christmas wish…i.e., the keys to number 10.
So it’s not property specific, but if/when we go through with Brexit it is I suspect going to have a major economic impact which it can be reasonably assumed will affect the property market right through from appetite for investment, sale and purchase through to new schemes getting off the ground. Mr Johnson promises to ‘get Brexit done’ (whatever that means) and then proposes to have a trade deal with the EU agreed by the end of 2020. The concern with this is the combination of the great unknown beyond Brexit and what seems a very short space of time to agree a very complicated deal. It seems almost ‘Brexit at any cost’ is the policy.
The Conservatives also have an aim to be net zero in terms of carbon emissions by 2050, a target that is likely to slip. A serious commitment to it will however most likely be a driver for further efficiencies in construction considerations/design so not by any means a bad thing. Retrospectively upgrading 2.2 million social homes is part of the target, but no mention of how private homes would be upgraded, or whether as in the past there would be any grant availability.
There is a whole raft of things here that could and will likely have an effect if Labour get into power. The direct cost of employment will rise as the minimum wage goes up to £10 for all over 16’s, although most in the construction sector will already be earning more than that.
A key pledge is to build 100,000 council homes a year. Whether that is deliverable is a key question: issues around availability of land, skilled labour and materials have not been addressed, nor the very important fact that such large scale developments cannot simply be pushed through our existing planning system which is not set up to fast track approve large scale schemes. It would certainly take a while to get this policy up to speed and there is a massive issue around promising huge changes and the reality of actually delivering them.
Likewise, how this would play out alongside the proposed renationalisation of key industries is debatable. But overall there would be a seismic social change if these ‘big government’ policies come to fruition. A major concern is how all of this would be financed, though it appears ‘tax and spend’ would be the order of the day.
On the Brexit front, there is no clear remain or leave policy, more a stance of considered neutrality ahead of a second referendum. How it is possible to renegotiate a better ‘leave’ deal without actually adopting a political desire to either stay or leave is something I personally struggle to understand. Whether the lack of a clear position on this is a vote winner or loser is difficult to establish. We will know more on the 12th.
‘Stop Brexit’ is quite clearly the Lib-Dems main policy. It’s a bold one and may get them extra seats at least in part maybe as a ‘protest vote’ at the main two other parties. On the other hand there is a possibility that both Labour and Lib-Dem voters will effectively split the anti-Conservative vote.
The Lib-Dems green target of 80% of electricity coming from renewable sources within a decade (the UK produced 40% from these sources in the last quarter) would mean a huge push in renewable infrastructure and some very significant building projects including on and offshore wind farms and solar farms.
The Lib-Dems are also targeting 300,000 new homes a year (not just social housing) but as with the Labour Party housing policy, there are concerns around simply stating targets. Where does the land, labour and materials come from, and how do you streamline something so cumbersome as the national planning policy and planning regime? As with Labour’s policies, I think reality will bite when it comes to the difficulty of implementing some of these.
As usual, there are a lot of ‘big ideas’ across all three main parties. I can imagine they have all had brainstorming sessions in darkened rooms to come up with them, and rolled them out stating that they are fully costed. Media coverage so far, and being as objective as possible, suggests some of these costings are a little vague. The difference between coming up with these ideas versus the reality of implementing them however is huge, and quite how plausible some of these manifesto commitments are is questionable. As ever, the devil is in the detail, and I don’t think it takes too much analysis or rational thinking to reach the reality-checked conclusion that there are some big promises here that simply are unlikely to be deliverable.
I suspect we will once again have a hung parliament and may well be back where we were a few weeks ago in a groundhog-day inspired round of Brexit negotiations. I could be wrong.
To be honest, along with many others I’m not sure any of them have been good enough to get what is on their wish list this Christmas…