Parties set out housing plans ahead of General Election

Jessica Nangle

November 21, 2019

Main rivals Labour and the Conservatives are unveiling how they would each tackle the housing shortage ahead of the General Election on December 12.

In the newly released Labour manifesto, leader Jeremy Corbyn has pledged to build 150,000 new council and social houses per year across England.

If completed, Corbyn’s plan would be the largest council house-building programme since the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, as reported in The Daily Mail. 

Labour believe these building plans can be delivered despite criticism from the Conservatives.

Angela Rayner, the Shadow Secretary of State for Education, spoke to BBC Breakfast about Labour’s housing policy and claimed the market “had not delivered”.

Rayner emphasised that more council housing is needed in the UK, with Labour’s targets intending to “meet housing demands”.

The homes would be built on brownfield sites and unused private sector land, whilst green belts will be left untouched.

Corbyn has also promised 50,000 affordable homes a year to be offered through Housing Associations.

Labour has also proposed £150bn ‘social transformation fund’ which would pay for their social and council housing building programme.

This fund would be borrowed over a period of five years.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “Day in day out, we see the horrifying realities of our housing emergency, from children growing up in shipping containers to thousands of people sleeping on the streets, and millions trapped in expensive renting.

“With more than one million people on the waiting list for a social home, it is shocking to see new figures showing social housebuilding actually falling.

“Labour’s plan would be transformational for housing in this country.

“A pledge to build social homes at this scale would, if implemented, do more than any other single measure to end the housing emergency and give new, affordable, safe homes to the hundreds of thousands currently without one.

“Labour’s ambitious plans show housing is now – rightly – one of the hot topics of this election and lays the gauntlet down to the other parties, including the Conservatives.”

Martijn Van Der Heijden, chief strategy officer at Habito, added: “Labour’s housing building pledge to provide more affordable, efficient homes, improve housing standards and reduce discrimination for tenants is a welcome step.

“The detail on supporting councils and developers to realise their home building ambition through reducing regulatory barriers is also a positive intention.

“However, in addition to this welcome focus on the issues around housing supply, there remain significant issues with the process that so many have to go through to unlock the keys to their first home.”

These plans come as the Conservative Party has unveiled plans for ‘lifetime’ fixed rate mortgages which would involve a 5% deposit for first-time buyers to help renters get onto the housing ladders.

The Tories also pledge to introduce a First Home scheme where first-time buyers are sold properties in their local area at a discount of 30%.

Conservatives plan to build at least one million new homes over the next five years.

Polly Neate added: “Reports that Conservatives plan to scrap Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions are hugely welcome.

“If enacted, this would transform private renting for millions of people by providing them with stability and security.

“However the Conservatives’ housebuilding plans will be a significant disappointment to many.

“The commitment to only build 200,000 homes a year when the government’s own target is in fact 300,000 shows that even the Conservatives don’t think they’d be able to achieve this goal.

“The missing piece in their plan is any investment in new social housebuilding – without this the housing emergency will continue to get worse.”

Vadim Toader, founder and chief executive at Proportunity, added: “Homeownership remains the aspiration of the majority of Brits and it is right the Conservatives are looking at new ways of getting people on the housing ladder but it’s vital any new proposals are in fact workable.

“It is difficult especially to see how either a lifetime fixed rate mortgage or 30% discount for first-time buyers – effectively a right to buy on private property – would work in practice and it is telling the Tories are promising only a million homes when their target is 300,000 new homes a year.”

The Conservatives have also  pledged to end no-fault evictions and give private tenants access to lifetime rental deposits that can be transferred when moving home.

David Smith, policy director for the Residential Landlords Association, said: “We have long argued that deposits should be transferable – it will make renting cheaper and easier for tenants.

“It is vital though that the detail of the plans ensure that both landlords and tenants can have complete confidence in how the lifetime deposit will work.

“On the pledge by the Conservatives to end so called ‘no-fault’ repossessions, we agree that the system needs to be reformed, but this needs to be done properly.

“Whilst any new system should protect tenants from the minority of landlords who abuse the current rights, it is important that good landlords can be confident that in circumstances such as tenant rent arrears or anti-social behaviour they can swiftly and easily regain possession of their property.

“We want to see comprehensive reform that works for both landlords and tenants.

“This should include setting up a dedicated housing court offering easy and inexpensive access to justice for both tenants and landlords.”

Nick Sanderson, chief executive at Audley Group, spoke of both parties’ pledges and emphasised that housing targets are far from being met.

Sanderson said: “Housing targets are not even close to being reached – the gulf is widening.

“Yet government after government continues to make the same promises that won’t be kept: to build more, and more quickly.

“It’s headline grabbing, but misinformed. As manifestos are published and debated, I urge the political parties to take another look at the broader possibilities to create enough homes.

“The larger properties that could be freed up if more specialist housing was built.

“Our own recent research found that 27% of over-55s who downsized really struggled to find a suitable property.

“What a waste that is when those family homes would go a long way to creating movement in the housing market and halting the need to build over huge swathes of UK countryside.”

Van Der Heijden added: “It is right that both Labour and the Conservatives are now pledging to tackle affordability.

“The fact remains that for too many consumers, stress, anxiety and jargon throughout the process play a key barrier for those looking to get on the housing ladder.

“We would also encourage both Labour and the Conservatives to go further and look to improve liquidity in the market to help get people moving, allowing innovation in new products and the growth of online, whole of market advice platforms to offer speed and certainty to everyone throughout the UK.”

The Lib Dems released their manifesto yesterday with plans to build at least 100,000 homes for social rent each year and extend housebuilding targets to 300,000 each year.

The party also wants to promote longer tenancies of three years or more with an inflation-linked annual rent increase built in, and also want to improve protections against rogue landlords through mandatory licensing.

The Lib Dems vow to help those who cannot afford a deposit by introducing a new ‘Rent to Own’ model for social housing where rental payments give tenants an increasing stake in the property, owning it outright after 30 years.

The party wants to allow local authorities to increase council tax by up to 500% where homes are being bought as second homes with a stamp duty surcharge on overseas residents purchasing such properties.

The Conservatives are set to publish their manifesto later today.

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