Conservatives Propose Election Plans for Home Information Packs Return...

The Conservatives have revealed the idea behind their manifesto pledge to “reform and modernise the home-buying process so it is more efficient and less costly” - and it’s a new version of the Home Information Packs.

In an interview yesterday evening on the BBC Radio 4 programme PM, Michael Gove - the former minister put up as the official Conservative representative to discuss the Tory manifesto - was asked by presenter Eddie Mair what the pledge, put in the party's General Election manifesto, actually meant.

Gove replied: “One of the things we can revisit is to look for example at the way in the past  ... the arguments behind Home Information Packs which Labour hoped to deliver before 2010. They had some validity. The implementation of Home Information Packs was botched but we can look again at this process.

“I wouldn’t want to pre-judge what the outcome is but we all know the process of buying a home can be complex and it can be the case sometimes that information has to be generated more than once.”

At that point Gove and Mair moved to another subject.

Just over a year ago the then-housing minister Brandon Lewis inserted an amendment to the Housing and Planning Bill which many interpreted as Home Information Packs being resuscitated.

They have in the past year been associated with various efforts by the Cameron and May governments to call for evidence into transaction fall-throughs - but the Gove revelation last evening was the most explicit suggestion yet that HIPs are returning.

For those readers too young to remember - or keen to put HIPs out of their minds - the packs were originally a Labour idea in which, under Part 5 of the Housing Act 2004, a Home Information Pack was to be provided before a property in England or Wales could be put on the open market.

There was huge opposition from within the agency industry.

A watered-down version of the HIP became mandatory for homes with four or more bedrooms on August 1 2007 and was extended to three-bedroomed properties from September 10 that year, but were scrapped by the Coalition government in 2010.

 


Meanwhile industry groups have been forthright in explaining how they are unimpressed with the housing policies put forward by the Conservatives and other political parties.

A statement from Mark Hayward and David Cox - chief executives of NAEA and ARLA Propertymark - have issued a statement suggesting they are distinctly underwhelmed by the pledges outlined this week in the Labour, Lib Dem and Tory manifestos.

“The housing market is in crisis. We are simply not building enough homes to meet the demand from both the private rented and sales sectors. We are concerned that housing has become a political football for future governments to score points against each other and this is getting in the way of actually ensuring we have the right sort of houses available, in the right areas, across all tenures, to provide the homes that people need” says the statement.

“Only 32,000 affordable homes were built in 2016, which hasn’t made a dent; although the parties are pledging to build hundreds of thousands of new homes, we need to seriously consider if such pledges are even remotely practically possible. As we have said many times, we need to take the politics out of housing and consider other ways to ease the pressure on housebuilding that will allow us to provide a more accessible and affordable housing market for all” the Propertymark statement concludes.

NALS’ chief executive Isobel Thomson says her organisation welcomes parties’ interest on greater protection and security for tenants - but she says these must not come at the cost of sacrificing a strong and functioning private rented sector.

“While all three manifestos pledge longer tenancies, within promises to make renting better and fairer, we are yet to see the genuine evidence of demand from tenants for these tenancies. Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives all specifically pledge to ban letting agent fees. While this not a surprise, we have warned that the fee ban will lead to a number of unintended negative consequences for the consumer - driving fees underground, a reduction in service to tenants and the lowering of standards in the sector” she says.