Housing – or the lack of it – is one of the big issues UK society faces today. There are a host of reasons why many, particularly younger people, are unable to find secure homes for purchase or rent. The main two reasons, which are intrinsically linked, are undersupply and affordability. Rightly, both Labour and the Conservatives have recognised this in their manifestos, and have set out a range of measures to address the problem.
Conservative Manifesto Approach
“We have not built enough homes in this country for generations, and buying or renting a home has become increasingly unaffordable.” The Conservative manifesto is frank in its appraisal of the problems, and ambitious in its proposed solutions.
In terms of overall targets, the Conservatives are recommitting to their 2015 pledge of delivering a million homes by 2020, and are going further by pledging a further half a million by the end of 2022. 160,000 of these are to be built on government owned land. In a move that SME housebuilders will welcome, the Conservatives will also “diversify who builds homes in this country.”
Marking a major shift from her predecessors’ policies, under Theresa May’s leadership the Conservatives will move away from relying only on the “dysfunctional housing market” to solve the problem. Unlike David Cameron, Mrs May is willing to restart the direct delivery of social housing by local authorities. This will be encouraged through a series of ‘Council Housing Deals’ with “ambitious, pro-development, local authorities”. Housing associations may also take on a greater role, with the Tories offering them “increased flexibility” to increase their housing stock.
Labour Manifesto Approach
“For too many people, the housing pressures they face are getting worse not better. Britain has a housing crisis – a crisis of supply and a crisis of affordability.”
Labour’s approach to solving the problem focusses on ensuring that “housing is about homes for the many, not investment opportunities for the few.” Jeremy Corbyn’s party sets bold targets on housing, pledging to build over a million new homes, including by the end of the next Parliament at least 100,000 council and housing association homes a year for “genuinely affordable rent or sale.”
To co-ordinate this, Labour would establish a new Department for Housing and grant local councils more powers to build new homes. One of the tasks for this new Department would be to oversee delivery of a “new generation of new towns”, aimed at combatting urban sprawl.
As well as building more homes, residents’ rights are a key part of Labour’s policy approach. Their manifesto pledges to give locals first refusal on homes built in their area, and to give leaseholders security “from rip-off ground rents” and end the routine use of leasehold houses in new developments.
Housing won’t be the only issue on the ballot paper in this election, but whatever the outcome, it seems certain it will be at the forefront of the next Government’s agenda.