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Interview with Grant Shapps MP, Shadow Minister, Housing

publication date: Apr 23, 2010
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Grant Shapps MP, Shadow Minister, HousingQ Will you replace HIPs with any other measures?
A HIPs will be history under a Conservative Government. We are constantly looking at ways to improve the home-buying process but over the course of the last 12 months it’s revealing that many in the industry are thinking carefully about next steps. There has been a noticeable increase in people coming to see me with ideas for transaction-improving tactics, even including voluntary packs.

Q You plan to remove Stamp Duty for first time buyers buying under £250,000; will you make other changes?
A We’ll certainly keep looking at the stamp duty alongside all taxes but there are no plans for other changes currently.

Q What about Inheritance Tax? A We will scrap inheritance tax for estates worth under £1million. Q Will devolving planning power to local levels work?
A Under our Local Housing scheme, any community which wishes to benefit from development could essentially provide themselves with permission to expand providing the plans have strong local approval. Once there has been an agreement in the community on what type of housing they want to build and where they can ask house-builders to get involved and put forward proposals.

Q Will Local Housing Trusts create affordable homes?
A Yes, Parish Councils will be able to create new affordable homes. The key is that because they will be able to develop sites that otherwise wouldn’t happen they can decide how they fund the construction of affordable housing. They may have the land gifted to them (or sold at lower than market rates by local landowners (who otherwise would be unable to develop themselves) or local public bodies. They may also decide to cross-subsidise the affordable element by building some private housing – the key to Local Housing Trust success will be their flexibility.

Q Should sales and/or lettings agents be regulated by Government?
A Conservatives are very supportive of the role played by the PRS, recognising the need for an encouraging regulatory environment. Statutory regulation on agents needs to be proportionate to risk and targeted at the very small minority who are misbehaving.

Q Is a national register of landlords a good plan?
A The Government’s scheme for compulsory registration of all private landlords is very concerning – not least because the small print reveals proposals to allow the Government to seize control of private property if landlords fail to register. We are concerned that this is a state sledgehammer to crack a nut. Labour have already kicked the housing market by imposing the red tape of Home Information Packs. Now they want to cripple the fragile Buy To Let market with even more regulation. Tenants will lose out, as these new costs will reduce the supply of housing and drive up rents. At a time when the housing market is so vulnerable, this is kicking the Buy To Let market when it is down on its knees.

Q Are tenancy deposit protection schemes working?
A I’ve had a lot of correspondence over the last three months complaining about tenancy deposit schemes and have been asking questions in Parliament, particularly on the dispute resolution side of things. It’s certainly something I am aware of and will be looking at over the coming months though it’s vital that we protect tenants and landlords with a minimum of regulation and expense.

Q Should all legislation apply to online agencies?
A The key is what’s best for the consumer and the market. Protection is important but so are service, simplicity and speed.

Q Will you get the housing market back on its feet?
A Our new housing model will turn the entire industry on its head. With progressive policies to increase home-building we will tackle supply issues. We’re committed to scrapping bureaucratic Home Information Packs and are looking at plenty of other needless red tape that can be removed. We’ve said that tenants will be able to choose to have their local housing allowance paid direct to their landlord. We’re tackling lending issues with our treasury team. We’ll bring first-time buyers back to the market by removing stamp duty for 9 out of 10 buyers. The list goes on and on. This Government strangled the housing market – we will support it.

Q Do you expect to be appointed Housing Minister?
A Only the new Prime Minister could decide this!