What is each political party going to do for the housing sector?
13 November 2023
By Jeremy Greer
How is each major party in UK politics pledging to deal with the current housing crisis, as they prepare for next year's general election
Housing is an emotive subject and a political party’s policies for the sector can be a huge vote-winner amongst buyers, sellers, tenants and agents alike. According to a recent Market Financial Solutions survey 69% of UK adults see the housing crisis as one of the country’s primary social issues. As such it has been a key focus of the recent party conference agenda and will continue to be over the coming months ahead of next year’s proposed election.
So, as the battle for power begins what is each party promising and who appears to be taking the issue of housing most seriously with their policy-making pledges?
There was some disappointment that the housing market didn’t make it into the prime minister’s headline speech at the Conservative party conference in October. However, it did feature elsewhere. Housing Secretary Michael Gove revealed at the conference that the Renters Reform Bill would have its second reading in the Commons, which then happened later that month giving MPs the first chance to vote on it. It was subsequently in the King’s Speech on November 7.
Various ministers are said to have opposed the ban on section 21 evictions that form part of the reforms and Gove also admitted that the proposed ban on no-fault evictions would be delayed until a series of legal system improvements are made. Ending section 21 evictions was first promised in the Conservatives 2019 manifesto. However, the King’s Speech also saw the announcement of the leasehold and freehold reform bill which will make it cheaper and easier for leaseholders to extend their lease or buy their freehold with leaseholds for new houses banned in England and Wales.
A target of building 300,000 new homes a year, also promised in the 2019 manifesto, remains a target for the party, although it says it’s more likely to be around the mid-2020s before this is achieved. In his speech, Gove claimed that the party was on track to deliver a million new homes in the current parliament, although he admitted that many more were needed, but said the party would build in the hearts of towns and cities and on brownfield land to help protect the green belt.
At the start of 2023, the Conservatives also passed the Stamp Duty Land Tax (Temporary Relief) Act, which increased threshold limits for stamp duty therefore bringing down the potential bills for many and in particular increasing the 'nil rate band', as well as the relief rates for First Time Buyers.
At the Labour party conference a more definite stance on housing was promised, with pledges to build more affordable and social housing if the party came into power, as well as build more general housing.
In his speech Labour leader Keir Starmer said the party would build one and a half million new homes across the country within five years of a labour government, helping First Time Buyers become homeowners. Younger people in particular would be supported with a First Time Buyers scheme that would give them first dibs in new housing developments with a government-backed mortgage guarantee scheme.
Meanwhile, deputy leader and shadow housing secretary Angela Rayner, said the party would deliver the “biggest boost in affordable housing in a generation” with the number of affordable homes increasing by getting tough on developers and reforming planning rules.
The Liberal Democrats revealed its latest housing plans in September in a call for a fair deal “which provides for the needs of everyone”. A particular focus is social housing, and the party is targeting the building of 150,000 social or council homes a year across the UK by the end of the next parliament. It also wants to give new powers to local authorities that enable them to build their own social and affordable housing.
The party has called for developers to build the appropriate infrastructure needed for new housing developments to ensure that they don’t overstretch local facilities. Plans for the building of 10 new garden cities to help tackle the housing crisis were also announced.
Saving energy for homeowners is another key area of focus. with a ten-year emergency home insulation programme announced as well as promised new standards to ensure warm, cheap-to-heat homes that also produce minimal emissions.
Liberal Democrats want to abolish leaseholds for residential properties and effectively end ground rents by cutting them to a nominal fee. The party also wants a fairer deal for renters, including longer default tenancies, rent smoothing over the course of a tenancy and, like the Conservatives, a ban on no-fault evictions.
Whatever party does make it into power at the next General Election one thing remains certain – the issue of housing will continue to be one of the biggest battlegrounds for winning election votes and as such we’re likely to see many more housing sector headlines in the coming months as the battle for power continues.
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Gar on 25/11/2023