2020 Manifestos – Housing Policies

The UK is in the middle of a housing crisis, with a lack of social housing being highlighted this year. We’ve broken down the housing policies in the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat manifestos for you.

The Conservatives have probably been the least ambitious whilst acknowledging a need to address the social housing problem. They have promised that a social housing whitepaper will be released including measures to provide greater redress, better regulation and improve the quality of social housing.

They wish to renew the Affordable Homes Programme to deliver hundreds of thousands of affordable homes to hit their target of 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s. There is also the intention to encourage a new market in long-term fixed rate mortgages which is designed to slash the cost of deposits.

To ensure a good quality of life for those moving into these new homes, the Conservatives also aim to amend planning rules so that infrastructure comes before people move into new homes. A £10bn Single Housing Infrastructure Fund will help deliver this faster.

Labour’s proposed policies are more of a challenge to the status quo, actively attacking some of the Conservative policies and approaches of the last decade. First off, they plan to create a new Department for Housing and to make Homes England (the public body set up by the Conservatives in early 2018) a more accountable national housing agency. 

Furthermore, Labour wish to scrap the Conservative definition of ‘affordable’ and replace it with a definition linked to local incomes. They also plan to end the right to buy scheme along with the forced conversion of social rented homes to affordable rent.

Moving away from what they will actively do to counter Conservative policies, Labour also wish to decentralise power by giving councils new powers to tax properties that have been empty for over a year. There would also be a levy introduced on overseas companies buying housing while giving local people ‘first dibs’ on new homes built in the area. Furthermore, rents will be capped in line with inflation and cities will be given powers to cap rents further.

A new social housebuilding programme of more than 1m homes over a decade with council housing at its heart is promised and the Local Housing Allowance would rise in line with the 30th percentile of local rents. Also, an additional £1bn a year would be earmarked for councils’ homelessness services.

One of the most revisionist policies is probably the proposal to set up a new English Sovereign Land Trust, with powers to buy land more cheaply for low-cost housing, using public land for the housing and making brownfield sites the priority for development. Moreover, developers will face new ‘use it or lose it’ taxes on stalled housing developments, with ownership of land to be made more transparent.

Finally, in keeping with commitments to green policies, a tough, new zero-carbon homes standard for all new homes and upgrading existing homes would be introduced to ensure energy efficiency. There would be new minimum standards enforced through nationwide licensing and tougher sanctions for landlords who flout the rules.

Liberal Democrats
Finally, the Liberal Democrats ambitions are slightly greater than the Conservatives, although they do a good job at playing the middle ground between the Conservatives and Labour. They aim to build at least 100,000 new homes for social rent each year and ensure that total housebuilding increases to 300,000 each year.

To help finance the large increase in the building of social homes, there would be a £130 bn investment from their capital infrastructure budget. This would also help empower councils to develop community energy-saving projects, including delivering housing energy efficiency improvements street by street, which cuts costs.

Not forgetting about green pledges, they will require that all new homes and non-domestic buildings will be built to a zero-carbon standard by 2021, rising to a more ambitious standard (Passivhaus) by 2025. Furthermore, there will be a ten-year programme to reduce energy consumption in all UK buildings and cut fuel bills.

Rather unsurprisingly, the housing landscape would likely undergo the most drastic changes under a Labour leadership. The Conservatives would rather maintain the status quo but seem willing to concede that not enough has been done on social housing. The Liberal Democrats take a similar stance to the Conservatives with the added sprinkling of green initiatives.