Land for the Many

As the prospect of a General Election becomes more real (7/4 odds for one in 2019), policies other than on Brexit start to warrant consideration. This week saw the publication of a Labour commissioned policy development paper entitled ‘Land for the Many’. This sets out a range of proposals, some of which may raise eyebrows in the real estate industry. There will be limited opposition to the proposal that all planning and ownership data on real estate (inc beneficial ownership) should be published digitally in order to increase transparency. This is a journey upon which we are already passengers; and could well have the most radical impact on our sector in the long term. However, other proposals are more likely to catch the headlines in the short term. At the heart of the recommendations is an overriding objective to ‘discourage land and housing from being treated as financial assets’. From this stems a number of proposed initiatives: (1) reform of buy-to-let, giving 3-year term-certains and capping uplifts at CPI, (2) tightening of LTVs and loan-to-income requirements, (3) annual council tax revaluations and phased out SDLT for owner occupiers, (4) amends to the Land Compensation Act to enable purchases closer to existing use value, (5) removal of PD rights for office-to-resi conversions, (6) a new Public Realm use class conferring associated occupational rights on citizens, and (7) a more general presumption that development should be a public sector led activity. That should provide some food for thought.