Written by Priya Shah
Account Manager and founder of BAME in Property
This week the three main parties officially launched their General Election manifestos.
Kicking things off on Tuesday (16 May) was Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party, who essentially confirmed the manifesto that had been leaked to the media days before. The final version, titled ‘For the Many, Not the Few’, included a few more policies, as well as costings for them, which would largely be funded through an extra £6.4bn hike in income tax.
A day later, Tim Farron launched the Liberal Democrat Manifesto. The manifesto, called ‘Change Britain’s Future’, reiterated the Party’s position on Europe by committing to a second referendum on the Brexit deal which the Government negotiates. Indeed, the vote on the final Brexit deal would include an option to remain in the EU.
Finally, on Thursday 18 May, the Conservative Party published its official General Election Manifesto, ‘Forward Together'. Prime Minister, Theresa May outlined the key priorities of the party should it win the General Election and confirmed that the final Brexit agreement "will be subject to a vote in both Houses of Parliament".
It’s been a week full of sound bites, big figures and media backlash but what’s in store for the future of housing policy according to the different parties?
All the parties are committed to solving the housing crisis, and big numbers make big news.
The Conservatives have pledged to meet their 2015 General Election Manifesto commitment to deliver a million homes by the end of 2020 and deliver half a million more by the end of 2022. Acknowledging the issues that local authorities face with developers delaying construction, the Conservatives are keen to proceed with the reforms proposed in the Housing White Paper, particularly with regards to giving councils more power to intervene where developers do not act, to achieve the target.
The Labour Party is pledging to build 1 million new homes by 2022, but in contrast to the Conservatives, is including 100,000 council and housing association homes (for rent of sale) in this pledge. The party would also establish a new ‘Department for Housing’ to improve the standard and affordability of new homes.
The most ambitious target is the Liberal Democrat’s commitment to build 300,000 homes a year by 2022, including half a million affordable and energy-efficient homes. There are also pledges to create 10 new garden cities in England and a new government-backed British Housing and Infrastructure Development Bank, to provide capital for major new settlements.
The obvious hurdles on achieving these targets would be under resourced council planning departments, skills shortages and site allocation.
Council and Social housing
Social housing is firmly on the political agenda for all three parties. The detailed social housing policies on offer show the commitment from all parties to provide a mixture of housing to address the housing crisis.
In a break from traditional Party policy, the Conservatives have pledged to enter into new Council Housing Deals with pro-development local authorities to help them build more social housing. The Party has also committed to build new fixed-term social houses, which will be sold privately after ten to fifteen years with an automatic Right to Buy for tenants.
Unsurprisingly, the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn, is aiming to begin the biggest council building programme for 30 years. It will ditch the Conservatives’ ban on long-term council tenancies to give council tenants “security in their home” and will suspend right to buy with councils only able to resume sales if they can prove they have a plan to replace homes sold on a like for like basis.
The Liberal Democrats have pledged to lift the borrowing cap on local authorities and increase the borrowing capacity of housing associations so that they can build council and social housing.
Building more homes and home-ownership come hand in hand.
Whilst the Conservatives are looking to rebalance housing growth across the country with the Modern Industrial Strategy, a Labour government would pledge to “build thousands more low-cost homes reserved for first-time buyers” and would guarantee Help to Buy funding until 2027.
By contrast, the Liberal Democrats have focused on those who cannot afford to buy a home by introducing a new Rent to Own model where rent payments give tenants an increasing stake in the property, owning it outright after 30 years. The Party is also targeting people under 30 with a pledge to help them into the rental market by establishing a new Help to Rent scheme.
Despite this General Election being the ‘Brexit’ Election, all parties have certainly given necessary attention to the housing crisis, with a list of policies to solve it.
Many of the housing policies set out by Labour and the Liberal Democrats in their manifestos resonate with ordinary people. The big question is whether they will be enough to close the gap on the Conservatives who are set to win this Election.