There were hopes ahead of 2024’s Spring Budget that Chancellor Jeremy Hunt could bring in new schemes to help first-time buyers and movers, and perhaps even some surprising tax cuts.

Hunt did indeed promise in his speech that “building homes for young people” is a priority for the government. Anyone hoping for the much-hyped 99 per cent mortgage scheme, further stamp duty relief, or a Lifetime ISA penalty repeal to help London’s first-time buyers would have been left disappointed, however.

Here’s our breakdown of what the budget meant for movers.

No 99 per cent mortgage

Turning first to the mooted 99 per cent mortgage, which leaks ahead of the budget had suggested Hunt was considering: It didn’t happen. 

The scheme was aimed at first-time buyers and would have allowed people to put down a deposit of just one per cent when buying a house.

While the idea might have appealed to first-time buyers struggling to save for a hefty deposit, it was widely panned by the industry when the leaks came out.

One common criticism optimistically suggested that, although it hasn’t been a priority in recent years, a future government might actually take the responsible approach of tackling the root causes of the UK’s vastly overheated housing market – by building more homes, say. 

Any successful attempt at cooling house prices would vastly increase the danger of negative equity for those in 99% mortgaged houses, effectively trapping them in homes they can’t sell for more than they already owe for them.

The arguments against 99% mortgages don’t stop with a hypothetical government actually addressing the housing crisis, however. Banks are likely to be cautious about lending such a high proportion of the value of homes, and where they do it seems almost inevitable that we would see a rise in defaults and repossessions with so little personal investment by owners, actually making more people homeless.

Alternatively, the government may choose to underwrite loans, creating a far from ideal situation where taxpayers who don’t own their own homes could actually be paying the mortgages of those who do.

The scheme was fraught with potential flashpoints – Oxford economics research fellow and former government advisor Ben Ramanauskas, a man who we assume has seen a fair few bad policies in his time, told the Evening Standard it was “one of the very worst policies of any government ever,” so perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised it didn’t make the cut.

Capital gains tax

Hunt announced that the higher rate of property capital gains tax will be reduced from 28 per cent to 24 per cent.

“This will encourage landlords and second home-owners to sell their properties, making more available for a variety of buyers including those looking to get on the housing ladder for the first time,” he claimed.

Capital gains tax is paid on the profit made by the value gained by an asset — such as a house — when you sell it.

Hunt said the Treasury and the Office for Budget Responsibility “have concluded that if we reduced the higher 28 per cent rate that exists for residential property, we would in fact increase revenues because there would be more transactions” and so would go ahead with the four per cent tax cut.

The jury is out on this one, but a four per cent tax cut seems unlikely to inspire a flurry of professional landlords putting properties on the market due to the tax saving – this category of owner tends to be in the market for long-term capital appreciation combined with regular income yield.

Small-scale landlords, undecided movers, and second-home owners may be more swayed by the prospect of saving a few thousand pounds in tax, but the overall effect on supply seems likely to be at the lower end of the scale.

Stamp Duty Land Tax

Multiple Dwellings Relief, which was available to those buying more than one house in a single transaction, has been taken away. The relief was intended to encourage large-scale landlords to invest more in the private rented sector, but perhaps unsurprisingly it turned out they were more likely to keep the money they saved. Hunt said an external evaluation found “it was being regularly abused.”

This doesn’t directly help those looking to buy a home to live in, but by making mass purchases less attractive to big landlords, it could at least help to make a few more new properties go on general sale rather than being snapped up by property magnates. 

Elsewhere, despite calls to make the current, temporary £425,000 stamp duty threshold for first-time buyers and £250,000 for other buyers permanent – that is the value of a house purchase at which buyers have to start paying stamp duty – no such announcement was forthcoming and the figure is due to drop back down in Spring 2025, to £300,000 for first time buyers and £125,000 for everyone else.

Rightmove property expert, Tim Bannister, said: “We had hoped the government would seize the opportunity to help first-time buyers and reform the outdated stamp duty system today. Instead, home-movers were left with extremely little, and the temporary stamp duty thresholds weren’t even made permanent, meaning more will pay higher rates of stamp duty next year, unless the government makes them permanent in the Autumn.”

Short-term rental crackdown

Hunt also used the budget to end tax breaks for short-term, furnished holiday lets, placing them on the same tax footing as long-term lets. Currently, a short-term landlord can claim 100% of mortgage interest repayments as deductible before tax.

Ostensibly, Hunt said this was an attempt to boost the number of homes available for long-term rent, particularly in tourist hotspots where homes available to rent long term are scarce, although it could potentially see a few holiday let landlords put their homes on the market rather than take on the extra tax and responsibility of being a long-term let landlord.

Realistically, with the huge profits to be made from short-term holiday lets, we’d expect the impact of a few pounds extra tax to be minimal on the housing market on a national scale, and of course landlords can also mitigate the extra tax costs by increasing prices.

Regeneration

Two regeneration schemes in London were singled out for attention in the Budget.

Hunt promised to transform Barking Riverside and Canary Wharf with £242 million of investment. The Chancellor said this would create 7,200 new homes in Barking and 350 homes in Canary Wharf.

Barking Riverside is one of the largest micro-towns planned for London. A total of 10,800 homes will be delivered, with about 5,400 still left to build. Half of the homes at Barking Riverside have been designated as affordable.

As one of Europe’s largest brownfield regeneration projects, it will see a disused power station transformed into a town running along 2km of the Thames.

The housing association-cum-developer L&Q is in partnership with the Mayor of London and Barking Riverside Limited.

A second development from the Euston Housing Delivery Group was promised £4m of funding for the delivery of 10,000 homes on the site that was earmarked for the scapped HS2 terminus station.

A further £20 million of funding was earmarked for “social finance” to build 3,000 new homes via local community groups.

No change to Lifetime ISA cap

There had been hopes that the Lifetime ISA (LISA) cap for first-time buyers would be lifted. It wasn’t.

Martin Lewis, who has been campaigning to remove the cap, said the Chancellor had told him he wanted to “do a big home ownership package,” but that that wouldn’t work until property prices are definitely rising. “I want to do more than remove the penalty. I want to reform LISAs,” Lewis said Hunt told him.

Currently people can save up to £4,000 a year and receive at £1,000 top-up from the government, plus interest. However, it can only be withdrawn to pay for a first home costing less than £450,000, otherwise there’s a 25 per cent penalty.

For people looking to get on the London property ladder, where the average home costs well above that limit, the LISA remains a huge gamble when it comes to saving for a deposit.