RICS calls on Bank of England to limit price boom

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) this week said that the Bank of England should use its powers to limit house price increases to 5% a year.  Rics said that a 5% annual rise should trigger caps on how much people could borrow relative to their incomes or the value of the property. It is not suggesting that sellers should face a limit on how much they could charge for their homes.

There has been considerable debate during the week about the future of the UK housing market and the potential for government schemes to create an artificial price bubble.  Some forecasters are suggesting increases in house prices could break through the 5% barrier this year, owing to increasing demand from first-time buyers at a time when the number of homes for sale remains low. Joshua Miller, senior economist at Rics, said that it was important to stop any debt-fuelled house price advance. "The Bank of England now has the ability to take the froth out of future housing market booms, without having to resort to interest rate increases. Capping price growth at, say, 5% is one way of doing this," he said. "This cap would send a clear and simple statement to the public and the banking sector, managing expectations as to how much future house prices are going to rise. We believe firmly anchored house price expectations would limit excessive risk taking and, as a result, limit an unsustainable rise in debt."

The Bank's governor, Mark Carney, told MPs that the Bank was vigilant on house prices but that parts of the country had not seen any recovery in the housing market. In previous speeches, he has said that he has a toolkit in place to keep a lid on any potentially damaging boom. This includes asking, but not telling, banks to limit how much they can lend to individuals and making them set aside more capital if they want to carry on providing mortgages. However, Sir Howard Davies, former deputy governor of the Bank, said that a cap would not work. "The problem is that we are not building enough homes," he said.

Any limit on house price rises would be resisted from those who remain in negative equity in some parts of the country. It would also be unpopular among first-time buyers if there was a restriction of mortgage lending.

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