On Wednesday 7 July, chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak delivered a mini-budget to kickstart the UK’s economy during the coronavirus pandemic. Among his tax and spending plans – including a £10 restaurant voucher for everyone in the UK – one of the flagship policies announced was a stamp duty cut on property purchases up to £500,000. This will save buyers as much as £15,000.
But what about the one in five UK households that live in private rented accommodation?
The number of people who rent has doubled in size since 2002. And the cost of renting increased by 38% between 2005 and 2016 in London alone. In fact, a recent report found that 14 million 20- to 35-year-olds will probably never own a house.
When we first went into lockdown, the government announced a mortgage holiday for home owners and landlords. It later set out plans for emergency legislation to protect private and social renters from eviction. But there was no announcement of new measures to help renters as lockdown eases in Sunak’s mini-budget.
It came after housing charity Shelter estimated around a quarter-of-a-million private renters in England could be at risk of losing their homes. That’s because of redundancies, furloughed salary cuts and extra financial pressures caused by the pandemic.
As reported by Huffington Post, Alicia Kennedy, director of campaign group Generation Rent said: “While support for jobs is welcome, people are struggling to put food on the table now and face the threat of losing their home when the eviction ban is lifted next month.
“The stamp duty holiday doesn’t help renters whose incomes and savings have been destroyed by the pandemic and face a further setback to their hopes of buying a home. Right now the government is leaving renters to bear the cost of the pandemic – we need Rishi Sunak to increase Local Housing Allowance, remove the restrictions stopping people from accessing it, and end the rent debt crisis before it causes mass homelessness.”
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, called the stamp duty cut a “distraction” from the bigger housing crisis picture. “Changes to stamp duty are wholly insufficient for the challenge this country is facing,” she added. “Voices from across the political spectrum have been calling for urgent investment in social housing to stimulate housebuilding, protect jobs, and provide urgently needed homes.