General election 2015 (presumably someone somewhere has made that into a hashtag by now) is now looming and it’s just a matter of weeks until it’s time to make that decision about which name to put your mark next to. Whether you’ve listened to the TV debates and followed the Twitter campaigns (are you part of the #Millifandom or a #cameronette?), read the endless news coverage in the papers or just simply opted for the headlines, no doubt you’ve got a pretty good idea of where each party stands.
The NHS, the deficit, immigration and energy prices have proven pretty hot election topics and, interestingly, so too has housing. As we know the housing sector in the UK is afflicted with that age old problem of too little – not enough houses squeezes prices up, pushes rents through the ceiling and makes it impossible for first time buyers to get onto the ladder. But what is each of the parties doing about this and do their policies hold water?
Conservative – we’ve seen a couple of policies from the Conservatives that have been aimed at correcting the state of affairs in the UK housing market. One of these was the announcement of the Help to Buy ISA, which allows you to save for a deposit for a house with a potential 25% contribution from the government. The second housing-focused policy sees a return to the Thatcher years with the Conservatives’ latest offer to allow housing association tenants to buy their properties at a discount. They have also said they intend to build 200,000 new starter homes by 2020.
Labour – for Labour, the housing crisis can only be fixed by building new homes and they have committed to building 200,000 per year if they make it through the door of No. 10, as well as more garden cities. Interestingly, Labour is also one of the few parties to acknowledge the problems in the rental sector. As we have previously discussed in blogs on TTV, the UK rental sector has recently become a long-term rental environment but has none of the protections for renters that other long-term rental markets do. Labour is suggesting three year tenancies with only limited rent rises during that time, as well as the banning of rip off letting agent fees. We’re not saying vote Labour but tenancy issues, rent rises and agents’ fees are some of the most frequent complaints we see on our forums.
Liberal Democrats – an ambitious target of building 300,000 homes a year comes from the Liberal Democrats, as well as 10 garden cities and redevelopment of brownfield sites. They’ve also proposed a ‘help to rent’ scheme that would give young people the opportunity to borrow a deposit.
And the rest – the Greens would like to build 500,000 social rented units and, like Labour, have also proposed longer tenancies, capped rents and dealing with ridiculous letting agent fees. Finally, UKIP says there’s plenty of brownfield land to develop so green belt construction would be limited.