Sitting in Cannes recently on a warm St. Patrick's Day morning I found myself listening to the Housing Minister, Brandon Lewis MP, justify his Government's Budget from the previous day and explain to a room full of institutional investors and Private Rental Sector (PRS) operators how they wanted to ensure there was a level playing field for investors in both the residential and commercial sectors. He was, of course, speaking about the additional 3% surcharge on stamp duty on commercial purchases. In his opinion this was "fair" and it was another fair measure introduced by his Government to help with the overall housing crisis.
Although this was my first visit to the huge annual MIPIM property trade event, and with the risk of rocking the boat as a newbie, I just couldn't resist the temptation to approach the Minister and question him on his definition of 'fairness'. Patiently waiting my turn I could see the exchange of pleasantries with my colleagues and the Minister.
I introduced myself as a PRS investor and developer with a large buy to let portfolio based in the North West and I wanted to know in his opinion where was the fairness in how the Government, after being so reliant on the buy to let landlord for more than 20 years, particularly with LHA housing, could turn its back so blatantly and so quickly on the sector with the withdrawal of mortgage interest relief and turn profitable businesses into loss making businesses. I asked him where was the fairness in that?
Not surprisingly he said he couldn't speak on behalf of what previous governments had done or have been reliant on but that in his opinion this was a fair way of raising the standards of the private rental sector (PRS). So it seems he wants to crush this 'cottage industry' of BTL as he sees it, and at the same time level the playing field for first time buyers.