Reduced rates of SDLT on residential property for a temporary period

Part of Stamp Duty Land Tax (Temporary Relief) Bill – in the House of Commons at 8:31 pm on 13th July 2020.

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Photo of Wera Hobhouse Wera Hobhouse Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Environment and Climate Change), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Energy) 8:31 pm, 13th July 2020

Covid-19 has highlighted the deep inequalities that existed long before this pandemic. Many people have been left desperate for support. Hundreds of thousands of people already have less money coming in, and hundreds of thousands have lost, or will lose, their jobs. The Government have thrown an eye-watering amount of money at our economy, but we do not yet know how this increasing mountain of debt will be paid back, or by whom. In the meantime, paying bills, rents and mortgages has become hard for millions of households. We must therefore question whether this tax cut should be a priority for the Government. It is expected to cost £3.8 billion, yet it will mainly benefit the wealthiest. The average earner, including the young generation who are struggling to pay ever-increasing rents, let alone be able to put down enough money to buy a house, will see nothing of it. The discount might provide a tax holiday for the privileged few, but it completely ignores the fact that the majority of people are unable to buy a home of their own now, and are never likely to do so in the future.

In my constituency of Bath, the availability of housing for first-time buyers is limited and house prices are expensive. The average house price in Bath is currently more than £430,000. A first-time buyer would qualify for £10,000 under the new rates, but even that would provide little benefit to a first-time buyer in my constituency who cannot secure a deposit or who faces an unaffordable mortgage. The cut to stamp duty will not solve the real problems at the heart of the housing crisis. Housing is one of the most important sectors for job creation—I agree with the Minister on that—but where is the focus on building social homes for rent? Social homes are the only way to provide secure and affordable housing for everyone, but, most importantly, for those on lower incomes. The private sector has completely failed to build social homes, and only a huge Government infrastructure programme to build social housing, as we saw in the ’50s and ’60s, will bring our social housing stock back to where it needs to be. That would create the jobs we need as well as the homes we need. Surely at this time, genuinely affordable homes are more important than ever, and more important than a stamp duty cut.

Lastly, the climate emergency has not gone away during covid, and we know that emissions from homes account for 30% of UK emissions. Decarbonising homes is therefore crucial to getting to net zero. Improving the energy efficiency of social housing is something that the Government could do straight away. They could also require landlords to achieve minimum levels of energy efficiency in order to be able to rent their homes. We need a Government with a vision to get the economy going, not a tax cut for only the few.