Where do the Parties Stand on Housing
Housing could be the one of the most important issues in the election, so where do the main parties stand?
In an election which threatens to be dominated by Brexit other issues are struggling for oxygen, but housing could turn out to be the most important of them all. It affects each of us, whether we own, rent or are looking to buy. No matter who enters Number 10 in December, they will have to contend with serious questions: how can they get more people onto the housing ladder? How can they help renters and how can they build more affordable and environmentally friendly homes?
Here’s how the top three parties are approaching the problem.
Home building: Like the other parties, the Conservatives have pledged to increase the rate of new home builds. Theresa May promised £2bn last year for a new generation of council houses, but they have faced opposition from residents opposed to new housing developments.
Those communities are also being given more powers to block housing developments that they judge to be ugly. Ministers hope this right to fight ugliness will force developers to think about the aesthetic appeal of their homes. However, it may also stand in the way of building new homes.
Home ownership: The Conservatives have always prided themselves of being the party for home owners and little appears to be changing. Their Help to Buy scheme has helped many first time buyers onto the property ladder.
Under the scheme, the Government offers a loan for first time buyers of up to 20% of their home’s value leaving them to find a deposit of just 5%. They can also use a Help to Buy ISA in which the government will top up accounts with £50 for every £200 saved. The scheme is currently scheduled to continue until 2023.
Homeowners will also have more power to expand their homes without seeking planning permission. It only applies to detached houses and will allow families to expand their homes without needing to move.
Tenant rights: The National Shared Housing Scheme, meanwhile, allows housing association tenants to gradually buy their homes over time. They will be given the right to buy their home in 1% chunks rather than the 10% instalments currently required.
Home building: Labour has pledged to build a million new homes. It will be, they say, the biggest council house building program for 30 years and will be specifically tailored to help people on lower incomes. They promise that 4,000 homes will be reserved for people with a history of rough sleeping.
Buildings will have to be better insulated and to be more energy efficient to help them meet climate change targets.
Home ownership: Thousands more low cost homes will be built and reserved for first time buyers and they will continue to fund the help to buy scheme until 2027. Local people will also be given first choice on buying homes in their area.
One of their more controversial ideas has been a tenant’s right to buy. This could give renters the right to buy their homes from landlords at a reasonable price. The ideas is to target what they see as profiteering from buy to let landlords and give people an easier step onto the housing ladder. However, landlords are understandably concerned about the prospect of being forced to sell their properties.
Tenant rights: Renters will benefit from increased rights, secure renting and controls on rent rises. Three year tenancies will become standard and rent rises will be capped according to inflation.
New minimum standards will be introduced to ensure all rented accommodation is fit for human habitation. This will address, they say, the £9.6bn a year spent by renters on homes which the Government classes as substandard.
Home building: They plan to tackle the housing crisis by building 300,000 new homes each year. They say that, by the end of the next parliament, they will aim to have half a million affordable energy efficient homes.
They will create at least ten new Garden Cities in England building new zero carbon homes with gardens, amenities and shared green spaces.
A British Housing and Infrastructure Development Bank will be set up with a remit including provision of long term capital for major settlements and helping to attract finance for major house building projects.
House building will be enforced on unwanted public sector land and developers who have secured planning permission but failed to build after three years will be penalised.
Exemptions for smaller housing development schemes from their obligation to provide affordable homes will be scrapped and local authorities will have more power to prevent developers reneging on their commitments.
Communities will be given a bigger say in how development in their area takes shape. They will have the right to appeal in cases where planning permissions go against locally approved plans.
Home ownership: There will be plenty of help for young people who are struggling to get onto the housing ladder with a rent to own scheme which allows tenants to take an increasing stake in a property until they buy it outright after 30 years. Tenants will be given first refusal to buy their home in the event that the landlord decides to sell.
Tenant rights: Letting fees will be banned, upfront deposits capped and the standards of building in rented homes will be raised. Tenants will also receive more protections against rogue landlords and will be allowed access to the database of rogue landlords.