“Darkness falls across the land
The midnight hour is close at hand
Creatures crawl in search of blood
To terrorise y’alls neighbourhood
And whosoever shall be found
Without the soul for getting down
Must stand and face the Hounds of Hell
And rot inside a corpse’s shell “
As I Awaited our immaculate Chancellor
. . . . to take to his feet in what every press outlet had promised to be a Spooky Halloween Chiller Budget! So as the witching hour approaches this weekend, what can the property industry hope for? Now the papers have returned to the red box?
160,000 Affordable Halloween Homes
Jumping straight out of the red box was a massive declaration of the government’s desire to give every Englishman his castle. (And perhaps not actually “give”).
Immediately I suspected many of my colleagues in property development were salivatinvg at the idea of getting That Contract – until the horrible words were uttered from the Chancellor’s mouth, “affordable home!”
A Spooky Halloween Chill Descended
We all know what that means. Section 106 notices slapped on every development in the land. And no wriggle room. Even in tight constrained sites. No chance to avoid local council planners’ demand for greater percentages of affordable homes.
What can you afford?
What is an affordable home? In London the average house price is a whopping £659,000. In Carlisle, it’s £173,000. So, something in between?
The government’s own definition is – social rented, affordable rented, and intermediate housing, provided to eligible households whose needs are not met by the market (that sounds like everybody!)
The average rent in London is currently a staggering £1,572 per calendar month. That would have an average annual yield of 2.7% return. But looking at the local government stats for affordable housing in London, rents are between £172 – £200 per week around a 1.5% yield.
Back in Carlisle it’s slightly better with average rents now around £592 a calendar month, providing year on year returns for landlords of 4.1% add in social housing and the returns drop to 2.3%.
So What’s the Spook?
My point? Who will be motivated to build these properties?
I am sure many are penning a riposte to the various schemes and projects that try to prevent developers from making large losses on supporting affordable housing. However, there are some rather uncomfortable truths out there.
Yes, developers can and do build additional homes for social housing in their developments. But, to make that project work you are going to build a lower grade of home. Or you need to increase your costs for the private market. So we are inflating the private housing sector to pay for the affordable housing in the UK and simultaneously driving the prices up year on year. How is that going to sustain the market long term?
We have seen the issues arising from our sticking plaster continually applied to post-war social housing with all its rot and hidden nasties that reveal themselves with great gusto. Dry rot, asbestos, subsidence, Oh yes! And the cover up of cladding on high rise buildings.
Why have we not learned anything? We built poor quality social housing, it killed people or made them ill, then we sold the same properties, refurbished, to the public and the private sector and tried to make them last. But as the cost of repair became too much, the sticking plasters fell off, and we were left to deal with the likes of Armley and, of course, Grenfell.
Developer’s Tax Bogey Man?
It was billed as a contribution to the safety and remediation of properties in the UK and would only affect the largest developers in the housing sector. However, adding to the points above it does seem as though yet again the the Treasury has not thought this through. How will the largest developers fund this new tax? By adding it to the cost of the properties they build and so continue to push house prices upward and further away from the next generation of home buyers.
We are in a continuous cycle of increasing property prices: demanding a low-cost provision of social housing; and higher taxation for developers. In turn, that leads to increasing property prices, which makes the government’s dream to deliver everyone their own home an impossibility.
At this time of year, there are two types of Halloween participants: the scarer; and those that get scared very easily.
For the scarer it’s all about making things happen; get the right costumes and adding red lights to the house entrance, then covering the front garden with cobwebs and skeletons and placing the unwelcoming headstone with the words “enter, if you Dare!”
Those who scare easily have an easy job. – just to be critical of every effort that the scarers have made. Say things like “That won’t scare me!” or “That is not going to scare anyone!”
Hide in the house and switch off the lights. That way there’s no chance a trick or treater will think you are interested. And if it gets too scary run away and call the police.
Beastly Halloween Budget
This budget was a forecast for the easily scared! A Spooky Halloween Budget! Mr Sunak said it was about investment and infrastructure – but really, he was just running scared. He has thrown money at some high-profile schemes such as improving tech in the planning process. But no changes to the planning process itself. Brownfield site reclamation, but no guidance on how to tackle the added high costs of developing these contaminated sites. Encouraging investment in social housing with no incentive – just added costs that erode the investment itself.
It’s down to the scarers to make this Spooky Halloween Chiller Budget a success: just like every year.
We need to start work on making private renting a safer more reliable partnership between landlord and tenant. We mustn’t punish and frown down on private landlords who are supporting the housing crisis.
We need a partnership between government and developers to clear the issues on brownfield sites. We need support for smaller developments in rural settings. We mustn’t keep putting up costs and barriers driving affordable housing into an unaffordable dream.
So, this year as you gaze fondly at the hard work you put into your costume, garden and house to make those screams of terror sound like screams of joy. Just spare a thought for little Rikki and Bonzo lurking, shivering and shaking behind their curtains as the night’s activities take hold.
And perhaps we can pop over in the morning? And show them all the effort and hard work that we have put into making it a fun and friendly night? And maybe they, too, will come over to the dark side and see behind our skeleton mask? We really are nice, fun people who know what it takes to make Halloween a Chiller!
“And though you fight to stay alive
Your body starts to shiver
For no mere chancellor can resist
The fun that is the Chiller!”
With apologies to all Spooks and Scribes of Yesteryear
To contact Mulberry House or email