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£50,000 prize announced for solving UK’s housing crisis

The Institute of Economic Affairs has launched the second Richard Koch Breakthrough Prize, with Jacob Rees-Mogg MP on the judging panel. First prize of £50,000 will be awarded to the best and boldest entry outlining a ‘Free Market Breakthrough’ policy to solve the UK housing crisis.

Competitors will be asked to propose a single policy initiative which would:

• Increase the number of houses built so as to markedly reduce the housing shortage in this country (this can be reduced through increased rental or ownership).

• Increase the number and proportion of property owners in the UK

• Be politically possible

Submissions are welcomed from individuals, groups of individuals, academia, the not-for-profit sector and all corporate bodies. There is also a Student Prize which all students will be eligible for.

The Prize pool consists of £61,500, including a £50,000 grand prize for the winning entry, 3x £2,500 student prizes and 1x dedicated school student prize.

Richard Koch – the benefactor and supporter of the Prize – is a British author, speaker, investor, and a former management consultant and entrepreneur. He has written over twenty books on business and ideas, including The 80/20 Principle, about how to apply the Pareto principle in management and life.

Judging panel

Richard Koch, Former management consultant and entrepreneur
Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, Conservative MP for North East Somerset
Mark Littlewood, Director General, Institute of Economic Affairs

Commenting on the prize, Jacob Rees-Mogg said: “Building more houses and supporting home ownership are the two great challenges for Conservatives. A property-owning democracy provides one of the most stable and prosperous forms of society. Its erosion denies people their reasonable life’s ambition.

“This issue could determine the Conservative electoral fortunes which is why we need to seek out new and exciting policy ideas and why initiatives like the IEA’s Richard Koch Breakthrough Prize are so vital.”

Mark Littlewood, Director General at the Institute of Economic Affairs said:

“Market-based policies have the power to dramatically change the economy and society for the greater good. The capacity and bandwith of Government has been taken over by Brexit for the past two years, but now it is time politicians looked beyond Brexit, to the pressing domestic issues of our time – arguably the most pressing of which is the cost of housing.”

Source: London Loves Business

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16,000 first-time buyers saved money after stamp duty reforms, Government says

Stamp duty reforms announced in the autumn Budget have saved thousands of pounds for more than 16,000 first-time buyers, according to the Government.

The changes announced in November mean a stamp duty cut for 95% of all first-time buyers who pay it and no stamp duty at all for 80% of first-time buyers, with savings of up to £5,000.

Prime Minister Theresa May will be in Wokingham, Berkshire, on Wednesday to meet people who have benefited from the changes.

Ahead of the visit, Mrs May said: “I have made it my personal mission to build the homes this country needs so we can restore the dream of home ownership for people up and down the UK.

“In the autumn we set out ambitious plans to fix the broken housing market and make sure young people have the same opportunities as their parents’ generation to own their own home.

“This has had an immediate impact, with thousands of people already making savings thanks to our stamp duty cut, and over a million first-time buyers over the next five years are expected to save money that they can put towards a deposit, solicitors’ fees or furniture.”

She added: “We are building a Britain that is fit for the future and our message to the next generation is this – getting on – and climbing up – the housing ladder is not just a dream of your parents’ past, but a reality for your future.”

In the autumn Budget the Government abolished stamp duty altogether for first-time buyer purchases up to £300,000, and made this relief available for the first £300,000 of properties worth up to £500,000, providing help for people in higher value areas.

The Government claims that 16,000 first-time buyers have already saved thousands of pounds since the changes took effect and more than a million first-time buyers are set to benefit in total over the next five years.

It said the change builds on the steps already taken to help young people enter the housing market, including the Help to Buy scheme and introduction of Lifetime Isas.

Labour’s shadow housing secretary John Healey said the Government’s policy on stamp duty would just drive up prices.

He added: “Cutting stamp duty without the increase in affordable house-building that Labour has promised will only drive up prices, rather than help the millions of young people who want to buy a home of their own.

“The number of young home-owners is in free-fall but under the Tories the number of new low-cost homes for first-time buyers has halved and not a single one of the 200,000 ‘starter homes’ promised has been built.

“After almost eight years of Conservative failure on housing, homelessness has doubled, home-ownership has fallen to a 30-year low and the number of new social rented homes is at the lowest level since records began.

“It’s clear Theresa May has no plan to fix the country’s housing crisis.”


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Over 11,000 homes have stood empty for at least 10 years, data shows

More than 11,000 homes across the country have been lying empty for longer than a decade despite the housing crisis and rising homelessness, according to new research by the Liberal Democrats.

The data was collected through freedom of information requests to about 275 councils, which showed 60,000 properties had been empty for two years or more, 23,000 for five years or more, and over 11,000 have stood empty for at least 10 years.

Vince Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrats, told the Guardian: “At a time when the homelessness crisis is worsening and more and more people are sleeping out in the cold on our streets, it is a national scandal that thousands of homes across the country are sitting empty.”

Government data suggests about 200,000 homes have been empty for six months or more but information on longer-term vacant properties is not routinely published.

The Lib Dem research also showed that just one in 13 councils are making use of empty dwelling management orders (EDMO) – the powers that can be used by local authorities to take over properties that have been empty for at least six months.

Only 19 of the 247 councils in England and Wales that responded had used an EDMO in the past five years. Of these, only six had used one in the past year. In total, councils returned about 23,000 empty homes back into use, including through direct action and the work of empty home teams.

The Liberal Democrats are calling for reform of EDMOs and tougher powers for local councils to be able to bring long-term empty homes back into use.

“These homes could be turned into affordable places to live for some of the most vulnerable people in our society. The government needs to urgently review the current system which is clearly not working,” Cable said.

“Councils need to be given the powers and resources to bring empty homes back into use. This must form part of a wider package to tackle the housing crisis, including building more homes on unused public sector land and clamping down on land-banking.”

The areas that responded with the largest number of homes empty for six months or more were Durham with 6,500, Leeds with 5,724, Bradford with 4,144, Cornwall with 3,273 and Liverpool with 3,093.

The government announced at the budget that it would try to encourage owners of empty homes to bring their properties back into use by allowing local authorities to increase the council tax premium from 50% to 100%.

However, the charity Empty Homes said at the time that the council tax increase would do little to deter those buying properties as investment as “for a very wealthy buyer spending millions, 100% council tax is not really enough of a disincentive”. The charity said it would be more helpful if the government carried out a review into why overseas buyers kept their properties empty.

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “We’ve given councils a range of powers to bring empty homes back into use and the number of empty homes is down a third since 2010 to its lowest since records began.

“At the same time, we’re implementing the major changes to law and investing over £1bn to 2020 to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping.” After the Grenfell fire, data accidentally released by Kensington and Chelsea council revealed a string of oligarchs, foreign royalty and multimillionaire businesspeople as the owners of vacant properties in the borough where the deadly disaster left scores of people homeless.

Owners of the 1,652 properties listed as unoccupied by Kensington and Chelsea council included a Ukrainian billionaire fighting extradition to the US, a former mayor of New York, a high-profile luxury property developer and a senior television executive.

Source: The Guardian