A General Election for the United Kingdom Parliament will be held on 8th June 2017. The purpose of this briefing paper is to describe the housing policies of the main political parties, the responses to them in the sector and to provide some commentary. Because housing is a devolved matter in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales; housing policy in the United Kingdom Parliament generally relates only to England and so this paper refers to the policies of the three main political parties in England.
All the main parties have identified housing as an important election issue and have made commitments to increase house-building including the building of social and affordable homes by housing associations and local authorities. All the main parties have identified the ‘borrowing cap’ that has been imposed on councils’ housing revenue accounts as a barrier to building council housing and all are proposing to raise or abolish the caps. However, the Conservatives plan to do this through a series of one-to-one deals with individual local authorities that would be designed to deliver specific schemes while the Labour and Liberal-Democrat parties propose a more general lifting of the ‘borrowing cap’.
The Conservatives would offer similar one-to-one deals with housing associations where rent flexibilities would be on offer. However, none of the parties propose to increase the budget for the affordable housing programme.
The Conservatives’ wish to facilitate the building of new social housing is a departure from their previous position which was that resources should be focused on reversing the decline in home ownership. Their wish to facilitate the building of new council housing is a departure from the position that they have held since the 1970s and a return to that which they held in the 1950s when Harold Macmillan, first as Housing Minister and later as Prime Minister, championed the building of council houses.
The Conservatives have said very little about the extension of ‘right to buy’ to housing association tenants, the sale of high value council homes and the funding of supported housing – all policy initiatives that they have taken since 2015. This is leading to speculation as to how these policies would be pursued in future if the Conservatives are returned to office. The Liberal-Democrats would not extend the ‘right to buy’ to housing associations and would not introduce the sale of high value council homes.
Labour would suspend the ‘right to buy’ in England while the Liberal-Democrats would allow local authorities to suspend the ‘right to buy’ if they chose.
On Welfare, the Conservatives state that they do not intend to make any changes in addition to those that have already been announced, while the Labour and Liberal-Democrat parties propose reversing some of the measures that have been taken by the Conservatives. None of the parties has anything new or radical to propose about welfare reform.
I am sure that everyone in the housing sector will be pleased to see that all the parties recognise the extent of the housing crisis and the need to address it. However, I am disappointed with all the manifestos in that their proposals appear generally timid and unoriginal. There are also a lot of unanswered questions. Furthermore, none of the parties is prepared to commit to allocating significant funding to the development of affordable homes. I am not convinced that any of the parties would achieve their stated housing objectives through pursuing the policies that they have outlined in their manifestos.
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The United Kingdom Houses of Parliament.
There will be a General Election on 8th June 2017.