Natalie Elphicke is a non-executive director of a leading building society and a published policy writer on housing and housing finance with Policy Exchange and the Centre for Policy Studies. She was the first national director of the new Conservative Policy Forum.
Savings can support housebuilding and boost growth. Ahead of this budget, the CBI and the building societies association have been looking at ways in which savings could be put to work to build more homes and help first time buyers through a housing deposit ISA and a housing ISA. A housing deposit ISA would help first time buyers who are saving for a deposit for their first home. A housing ISA would help savers and build more homes.
The housing ISA proposal to build more homes is simple. There would be a higher threshold than for a current cash ISA. Funding for Lending is targeted to expand mortgages. The government housebuilding guarantee programme assists larger developers and housing associations. The proceeds for the housing ISA would be targeted at self-build, small and medium sized developers, smaller housing associations, and community building projects, such as community land trusts.
Building societies or banks which run a housing ISA would commit and certify to the Treasury and the Bank of England that additional lending has been made.
Given the positive outcome for GDP from a housebuilding boost, the cost of the housing ISA could be almost a net neutral cost to the Treasury. The generally applied rule of thumb is that 100,000 new homes increase GDP by one per cent. Putting savings, and specifically tax enhanced savings products, directly to work in this way would be a shot in the arm for growth.
A housing ISA would also provide a more attractive return to savers than is available now. Savings and the saving culture are important building blocks to long term financial stability. Labour’s debt bubble was a fundamental part of the failed economic policies that led to the credit crunch. A housing ISA would support the savings culture, as well as building more homes and supporting growth.