Lunchtime news Monday 8 September 2023

Figures published by the department for Communities and Local Government show there is enough brownfield land in England to accommodate more than one million homes. Of the land suitable for housing, just over half was currently in use, while the rest is vacant or derelict. The report added that although the amount of brownfield land suitable for housing had decreased by seven per cent since 2002, the ‘estimated housing capacity’ of brownfield land had increased by 19 per cent.

Homeless people are not receiving adequate healthcare because services do not cater to their needs, St Mungo’s have said. It found that 32 per cent of people it works with have alcohol dependency and 63 per cent have drug problems, almost half have a mental illness and 43 per cent a physical illness. Overall, 83 per cent of the homeless people St Mungo’s works with have at least one condition but a third are receiving no medical care at all.

During the past three months the private rented sector has seen an increase of almost 20 per cent in new tenancies, according to a quarterly survey by the Association of Residential Letting Agents. The rise in demand has lead to an increase in rental return, from 4.8 per cent to 4.9 per cent for both houses and flats across the UK. Outside of London, 64 per cent of agents report that tenant demand exceeds the supply of property, while in London this reduces to 41 per cent. The average time a rental property remains empty is for four weeks or less, with the average length of a tenancy at 16.7 months.

Estate agents are selling one property a week, the lowest level since the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) survey started, 30 years ago. RICS blamed the lack of activity on the mortgage drought which was ‘stifling’ buyers and subsequent speculation over a stamp duty holiday. New buyer enquiries fell slightly, as 28 per cent more surveyors saw a fall than a rise in the number of enquiries, and there has been very little improvement in the house price balance, with 81 per cent of surveyors reported a fall than a rise in house prices.

Meanwhile tighter lending criteria and uncertainty in the market saw loans to first-time buyers continue to decline. During July, according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders, loans were down five per cent from June, and a whopping 48 per cent year on year. The average first-time buyer also needed a larger deposit – 15 per cent in July, up from 13 per cent in June.

Chancellor Alistair Darling who welcomed the nationalisation of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae in America, is waiting on a report from Sir James Crosby, former chairman of HBOS, before intervening in the housing finance market said a senior government official. He is considering proposals to renew or extend the special liquidity scheme which allowed banks to swap mortgage-backed bonds with Treasury bills that can then be used to raise funds in the markets. Last week the Council of Mortgage Lenders called for an early decision to restore market uncertainty, and yesterday Nationwide repeated the ask. The chancellor is likely to present his decision in the pre-budget report late next month.