With the election underway and Brexit dominating the headlines, housing, usually one of the more heated topics, has taken a back seat. So before the manifestos are published, here we take a look at some of the housing policies that have been proposed from the three main parties over the last few years.
They propose amending the Housing Act so that the notice period (that must be given for tenants) is increased from the current two months to at least six months’ notice, and that rents for private sector tenancies should be linked to inflation or wages. Furthermore, they argued that there should be a right to buy (or first refusal) for sitting tenants when a landlord sells. Private rental properties should have a minimum energy rating of C, to be enforced on re-let or by 2024 at the latest.
There are also plans to create a British Housing Company that would acquire land of low amenity at current use value through compulsory acquisition to reduce prohibitive land costs and excessive developer profits. It’s not clear whether this would be used for social housing, affordable housing to buy, or whether there would be more comprehensive plans.
As an extra deterrent to greedy investors with a surplus of homes not in use, the Lib Dems would introduce 500% Council Tax on homes bought as an investment, but which remain empty for long periods.
In terms of social housing, the party promised a significant expansion in ‘Rent to Own’ where occupants pay rent to housing associations, in return for an increasing stake in the property over time, along with the removal of the cap on local authority borrowing.
“Housing for the Many” is the primary plan to change the country’s approach to affordable housing. This includes one million new genuinely affordable homes over ten years.
Other policies include:
- Define a new ‘affordable housing’ as linked to local income
- Stop the sell-off of 50,000 social rented homes a year by suspending the right to buy,
- Back councils and housing associations with new funding, powers and flexibilities to build again at scale
- Transform the planning system with a new duty to deliver affordable homes, an English Sovereign Land Trust to make more land available more cheaply and an end to the ‘viability’ loophole that lets developers dodge their contribution to more affordable homes.
A Labour government would look to bring in a radical “right-to-buy” scheme to help millions of private tenants in the UK buy their rented homes for a “reasonable” price. The policy replicates the right to buy scheme that was introduced by the Thatcher Government, allowing social housing tenants to buy their homes at a fraction of the market price.
Under the Labour proposal, the Government would set the criteria for what is a reasonable price for the property, which would then become the right to buy.
Other plans mentioned involve a new national ‘progressive property tax’ on every home. This includes an annual tax bill based on the value of your house. Homeowners with more valuable houses will pay more under the plan.
Finally there has been mention of two green policies, like a “zero-carbon standard”, which will mean that the day-to-day running of a home will not add any carbon to the atmosphere (intended to be achieved for all homes by 2022), and an announced “Warm Homes for All’ strategy, which proposes that insulation, double glazing and low-carbon technologies are fitted to “almost all” of the UK’s 27 million homes.
The Warm Homes for All plan, which would run to 2030, would see low-income homes offered grants that would be paid off through savings in their fuel bills, while wealthier households would be offered interest-free loans to carry out the work.
A plan has been proposed to loosen planning permission to allow people to add two storeys to their home without planning permission. The change will only apply to detached houses and will make it easier for some people to have more space and to expand their family size – or even to increase the amount of housing available by creating a separate flat above their own to rent out.
They also plan to increase the powers of communities to stop developments that they judge to be “ugly”.
The tenants in new housing association properties will be given the right to shared ownership of their home. The policy, part of the Conservative’s “national model for shared ownership” is intended to provide new opportunities for young people and families to get onto the housing ladder. People will be able to buy more of their home in 1% increments, rather than the 10% (or more) chunks currently required. For new housing association properties, this will be an automatic right for tenants.
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