By Claire West

With the housing market on its knees, the RICS is calling on the Government to act swiftly and decisively on a range of proposals to help the buying and selling process – now and in the future – for both consumers and business.

RICS’ research shows that housing sales are at their worst level for 30 years with Chartered Surveyor estate agents averaging just over one property sale a week in the three months to July. With the market reaching a floor, RICS is proposing that the Government adopt a comprehensive set of measures which will both kick start the market now and significantly improve the consumer’s experience of buying, selling and occupying property in the future.

RICS cites tackling mortgage liquidity as the crucial first step towards rescuing the situation and calls on the Government to incentivise the issuance of new mortgage backed securities and covered bonds to give investors the confidence to return to the market. Such a move, which RICS says should include a proportion of funds dedicated to first time buyers, has been called for by mortgage lenders and would be specifically aimed at improving the flow of funding for new mortgage lending. To support this injection of lending funds, RICS is also asking the Government to establish a tax free savings account supported by Government contributions to help first time buyers save for a deposit.

RICS then sets out a wide-ranging package of fiscal, regulatory and consumer-focused measures. These include fundamental reform of stamp duty, a complete overhaul of housing models, bringing clarity and accessibility to shared ownership and rent-to-buy housing schemes, and a fresh approach to consumer protection and information in property. The package also covers mortgage rescue schemes, designed to enable people to stay in their homes with housing association assistance.

However, it is essential that the Government implement a long-term sustainable plan. It is necessary that empty homes are brought back into use as quickly as possible to boost housing supply in areas where demand is high and to boost regeneration in low demand areas. RICS proposes reducing the cost of bringing property back into use by cutting VAT on repair and maintenance and giving local authorities real flexible power to use empty dwelling management orders in ways that reflect the dynamics of the property market.

RICS Director of External Affairs, Gillian Charlesworth commented:

“The market needs decisive Government action on a range of fronts if it is to pull itself out of the doldrums and we call on Government to listen to the market’s solutions to a whole set of problems. We know there is no silver bullet that will slay this monster but we need a joined-up, comprehensive approach to bring back confidence and to give the public clarity about what is available. While we wait for the Government to act on all the necessary fronts, many home owners are trapped in a market offering little or no mobility without any prospect of good cheer in the Autumn.”