Conference season is well under way and with a possible General Election looming the three main political parties have been setting out the direction of their housing policy. Below is a summary of what has so far been proposed:
The Conservative Party
Though the Conservative Party conference is yet to begin, Esther McVey gave her first speech as Housing Minister this month at the RESI Convention that outlined the policy themes to be put to conference next week.
The Minister sets the goal of government as “helping people into a home and into home ownership”, calling the shortage of homes over the last 30 years a “scandal”. The focus on home ownership centred heavily around the new build sector, “…as we leave the EU and set about building 300,000 homes a year, we could become global leaders in the world of house building”. There included no specific social housing target, as the other two parties have set out. The Minister proposes that this would involve the Northern region by establishing a “Centre of Construction Excellence” that would create career opportunities as well as diverse and energy efficient homes.
She also referred to brownfield sites in her support of regeneration where she announced that councils will receive a share of nearly £2 million to crackdown on illegal development in the Green Belt with 37 councils receiving up to £50,000 each. The speech also includes a commitment to continue with planning reforms by delivering the Accelerated Planning Green Paper. Additionally, there was a commitment to the expansion of Shared Ownership and Rent to Buy as well as an announcement that the Ministry would work with the RTPI to update the National Enforcement Handbook.
The Labour Party
The housing group of motions that were submitted to be debated at the Labour Party conference in Brighton largely referred to Shelter’s “A Vision for Social Housing” report which concludes that 155,000 socially rented homes should be built per year as well as the frequent advocacy of expanding the national Affordable Homes Programme. It is expected that conference will prioritise the Green New Deal on their agenda with motions referring to new standards for homes to reduce carbon emissions as well as a wider target of zero carbon by 2030.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has also this month outlined a plan to develop a new Right to Buy scheme for millions of private tenants and increase taxation for landlords. He plans to “tackle the burgeoning buy-to-let market” where homes are not sufficiently invested in to make it easier for people to buy the home that they live in. The value paid for these homes would not be at the market price but a “reasonable” price set by the government. In a speech to conference over the weekend, McDonnell also said Labour would “get rid” of Universal Credit, which would change their plan to reform it outlined in their last manifesto.
Labour also plan to debate a proposal that would give local authorities increased power to purchase empty homes as well as introducing a cap on rent at a third of local incomes. Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey spoke to Inside Housing on Monday 24th September outlining that the £4 billion capital grant to build low-cost homes in their 2017 manifesto would only be a starting point. Healey says that this would “ramp up rapidly” after the first year. The article also reports that Healey said Labour want housing associations “to be much clearer and closer to the social purpose that many of them were originally founded [on].”
The Liberal Democrat Party
It seems that Brexit did not command every vote during the Liberal Democrat conference last week as their “A Fairer Place for All” paper passed as well as a successful vote in favour of abolishing S21. The paper’s focus on affordability acknowledges the geographical economic imbalance of the UK, citing that benefits and opportunities are “felt increasingly unevenly across our communities and our country”. Proposals within the paper include:
- Increased powers of local authorities – Help to boost social housing by giving them the first right to purchase public land.
- Replace sold social housing – Replace any social housing sold in the future with an additional pledge to build 100,000 homes for social rent per year.
- Rent to Own – Set up a new Rent to Own model for social tenants and introduce a new Help to Rent scheme that would provide government-backed loans for deposits.
- Reforming the Land Compensation Act – Landowners to be paid a reasonable price for their land rather than the inflated price that it might achieve with planning permission that it does not have.
- Adapting homes – Developing homes with extra care provision to alleviate some of the pressures faced in health and social care.
- Setting up a new ALMO – A new arms-length governmental body to acquire land of low amenity at current use value.
- Setting clearer standards for homes – Enforce regulations according to clearer standards which would involve setting up a new regulator that all private landlords with more than 25 homes must sign up to.
- Homelessness – They have proposed to end rough sleeping within 5 years and provide local authorities the means to deliver the Homelessness Reduction Act.