The housing market is slowing as the end of the stamp duty holiday approaches, but architects remain chipper about work in the sector
The latest housing market figures from RICS suggest the pandemic chickens may be coming home to roost. As PiP went to press, a 140,000 signature petition put mounting pressure on Rishi Sunak to extend the stamp duty holiday in his 3 March budget. Meanwhile, RICS members reported significant drops in new buyer enquiries and an 18% fall in sales in January. The Nationwide’s index showed house price growth slowing to 6.4% and average house prices fell 0.3% from December to January – all signs of buyers taking their feet off the pedal as the stamp duty ‘wall’ approaches on 31 March.
Architects could interpret this in different ways. Clearly, the Covid-cautious are appointing no architects yet; flip it and that ‘ker-ching’ sound could be house-bound families thinking ‘Don’t move, improve!’ The RIBA’s Future Trends Workload Index suggests the latter, with nearly 75% of respondents thinking the private housing sector is positive and that workloads will hold steady or improve – despite the profession’s generally negative view of Brexit’s effects.
But for really negative, think of leaseholders who were stuck in flats behind dangerous ACM cladding, facing eye-watering bills to see it removed. I can’t imagine many feel fortunate to be living in a building over 18m tall, though the £3.5bn remediation grants may make them more sanguine about it – unlike those in low-rise buildings only able to get loans. Billed as the ‘largest ever government investment in building safety’, perhaps restoring the BRE as a truly independent, taxpayer-funded research and testing organisation might have less headline-grabbing but more structural benefits.