If there is one fallacy repeated more than any other in the press coverage of the UK housing market it is that the market is a single entity rather than a multitude of micro markets that may be regional, local or (in the case of certain London boroughs in particular) near enough a street by street affair.
Land Registry statistics at least begin to paint the regional divide with average prices in London up 24% since 2009 while those in the north east are down by 11% in the same four year period.
All the talk of a housing bubble and the powers that new Bank of England Governor Mark Carney may or may not have to burst/gently deflate said bubble must seem irrelevant to the average family in Darlington where prices remain stubbornly stagnant.
It is in light of the above that the announcement by George Osborne in last week’s Autumn Statement of a £1bn boost to housebuilding is of particular interest. While the Treasury publication didn’t explicitly refer to a northern bias, the Chancellor’s speech made clear that Manchester and Leeds would be the focus of the support.
While the devil, as ever, will be in the detail of the Treasury’s funding arrangements, it certainly seems to mark a clear emphasis from Government that the northern markets require special attention.
The obvious next question is what form will the £1bn support package take? The Autumn Statement is light on detail beyond referring to a six year package for the sort of infrastructure that will unlock large housing schemes. What would be most effective for your business?
In any event, recognition of regional variations to the UK market must be welcome, not least in the hope that Government policy leads to more informed coverage in the UK press and, in turn, better understanding from the public.
In the interim, homeowners will have to continue to cut through rafts of unhelpful statistics to understand what is really happening on the ground. While average UK house prices may be up 3.1% in the last 12 months, anyone placing reliance on such figures at a local level (including Treasury mandarins) would be well advised to remember the mischievous observation that ‘on average’ UK homeowners have fewer than two arms and two legs as well as a home worth £165,515.
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