Establishing a definitive strategy with regards to property and estate agency legislation is no straightforward matter. The fact that house prices are influenced by market forces will always mean that tinkering with the system is inherently complex and, indeed, risky. What is clear, however, is that some decisions taken in recent years have had negative effects on housing and homeowners in the UK, whilst estate agency as an industry has been perilously left to its own devices, despite an ever-changing housing market and ongoing challenges and related costs for buyers and sellers of property.
Relax Green Belt development rules
The UK is not building enough homes to satisfy demand and the antiquated policy of protecting land around some of our most exciting towns and cities needs to be reformed.
Take Cambridge, for example, a city on-the-up in terms of business. Historically known for its academic prowess, the university city is now using the brains it nurtures to appeal to as well as cultivate some of the most innovative tech and science start-ups in the world. As these companies and industries grow, a growth in demand for housing and more diverse accommodation is inevitable, as those who are recruited by these firms settle in the city or begin to have families.
Previous governments have looked to build new towns, such as Cambourne near Cambridge; a resounding failure. Key workers in dynamic industries want to be living in amongst the action where they can spend their new money rather than in isolated soulless locations with little sense of community. Long commutes to the city also have a negative impact both on the pocket and on the environment.
Home building needs to meet demand in terms of numbers as well as in terms of lifestyle.
My first hundred days would involve a rigorous review of Green Belt policy, concentrating initially on the fast-growing cities that are so vital for economic growth. Whilst Green Belt areas are important and must be maintained around larger metropolises such as London, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow and Sheffield, where the focus needs to be on regenerating existing housing, for cities such as Cambridge, Oxford, Reading, Milton Keynes and Bristol, Green Belts tend to hinder progress.
Reclaim the high street
High streets are meant to be the hive of communities, places with vibrant venues to meet and mingle, not filled with dreary offices full of estate agents spending 90% of their time playing Angry Birds.
Under "the government of Adam Day", there would be regulations on how many estate agents can 'set up home' in any given area. I'd go one step further to provide incentives to attract more traditional shops and businesses back to the hubs of communities. As much as this might rile the traditional estate agents of the UK, it may also enlighten them to cut their fees. Let's be honest, most people use the portals to find a property; not window displays. Take an estate agency to a business park or upper floor on the high street and the largest overhead after staff - rental costs - is immediately slashed.
Tax Incentives to downsize
There are issues with how housing stock is tied up in the UK; primarily in terms of older generations which remain in their 3-4 bedroom houses after children have long flown the nest. This creates a 'traffic jam' in the housing market, as those with 2-3 bedroom houses with a desire to upgrade can't find the right properties and therefore don't list their smaller houses for sale.
A solution would be to introduce tax incentives for those in the larger homes, encouraging them to downsize. This could help to rebalance the housing stock in the UK and enable those wanting to find larger homes to do so.
Encourage houses, not flats, to be built
Families need space to breathe but property developers are not quite in agreement, with the key interest being (quite predictably) maximised profits from each new build. The favoured way to achieve these profits is through the construction of new blocks of flats, purchased by landlords, which inevitably leads to 'Generation Rent'.
Encouraging houses to be built, real family homes, through financial incentives or tax breaks could help to increase the type of housing stock required by those with young families looking to take a step onto the ladder. Additionally, this policy is an alternative way of helping with the 'traffic jam' caused by older generations holding onto what are perfect homes for the next generation of families.
Scrap 'Help to Buy' schemes
I agree with the policy of encouraging ownership, rather than rental, of property. However, the incentivised government 'Help to Buy' schemes are not the solution as they simply fuel higher prices. The demand is increased but with little regards to supply. As with my other proposed policies the key needs to be opening up the country's housing stock. I'd far rather see the funds used for 'Help to Buy' to be used for incentives on homebuilders to focus on houses over flats or to encourage older generations to downsize.
With these policies being implemented, it may well be a tumultuous first 100 days for the property and estate agency sectors, but one thing's for certain; there would be a huge number of home buyers, sellers and local communities in general who would be excited by such a campaign!