James Ashton: Why the housing market hasn't been reined in

My Week
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The Independent Online

The incident of a suspect vehicle spotted outside the Bank of England on Thursday lunchtime was over before diners in the Royal Exchange had to be parted from their steak and chips. What's taking longer to clear up is why no one has stepped in to cool the housing market.

Only recently the Chancellor extended until 2020 the Help to Buy programme that some blame for causing a bubble. He has suggested that the Bank's Governor has the tools to do what he sees fit, by ordering banks to hold more capital against riskier loans. Yet Mr Carney spent part of his press briefing this week reminding people what he can't do, such as building more houses to address the chronic supply shortage.

It is true that high loan-to-value mortgages are still well below pre-crisis levels. It is also true that Britain's housing market is horribly imbalanced, with properties in some regions struggling to regain valuations from 2008 while the Bank exerts little influence over cash buyers splashing out £10m on luxury London flats.

Mr Carney and Mr Osborne know that housing transactions are crucial to stimulating the real economy and so are reluctant to throw grit in the wheels so soon after the market has picked up. We can only hope the Governor's as-yet-untried tools work when they are eventually pressed into action.