Election 2017: what do the manifestos say about housing?
CIH's head of policy Melanie Rees takes a look at what the Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour manifestos say about housing.
Although Brexit was the driving force behind the Prime Minister’s decision to call an early election, it has provided an opportunity to draw attention to the serious housing issues we’re facing.
Commentators have been somewhat scathing of many of the proposals offered as potential solutions to the housing crisis and it’s true that some important detail - like hard numbers and money to translate ideas into practice - are sketchy or missing in many cases. But it’s encouraging to see that the extent of our housing problems has at least been recognised, even if we don’t all agree with the solutions offered.
Reading through the manifestos reveals a surprising amount of common ground.
Although the numbers differ, increasing supply, including affordable homes, features in all three:
- The Conservatives pledge to meet their existing commitment to deliver a million homes by 2020 with a further 500,000 by 2022 including 160,000 on government-owned land
- Labour promises to build more than 1 million homes and at least 100,000 ‘genuinely affordable’ council and housing association homes for rent and sale each year by 2022
- The Liberal Democrats intend to directly build, through a government commissioning programme, 300,000 a year by 2022, 500,000 affordable homes and 10 garden cities.
•All three parties recognise the role of local authorities as developers of new affordable homes – something we’ve been calling for and leading discussions on:
- Labour will remove restrictions although it isn’t specific about what they are
- The Lib Dems will lift the local authority borrowing cap
- The Conservatives will allow some councils to build homes for social rent, with a proportion sold after 10-15 years with sitting tenants given first refusal and proceeds reinvested into new homes.
Homelessness in all its forms, rough-sleeping and use of temporary accommodation are increasing at an alarming rate and the parties are offering up a range of measures:
- The Conservatives pledge to implement the Homelessness Reduction Act, halve rough-sleeping by 2022 and eradicate it by 2027, and set up a homelessness task force
- Labour will draw up plans to tackle rough sleeping and make 4,000 homes available for people who have a history of this. It also pledges to safeguard homelessness hostels and other supported housing from planned cuts to housing benefit
- The Liberal Democrats say they will increase support for homelessness prevention and ensure there is adequate provision of emergency and supported housing
- Both the Conservatives and Lib Dems float the idea of ‘housing first’ – an approach where homeless people are moved straight into permanent housing as quickly as possible – with the former promising a pilot and the latter saying they will ensure that all local authority areas have at least one provider.
With 20 per cent of households living in the private rented sector it’s encouraging to see a range of ideas aimed at improving access, quality and security. This includes longer tenancies (Conservatives, Lib Dems) – good news given that assured shorthold tenancies coming to an end are the single biggest reason for homelessness; improving consumer rights (Labour); improving minimum standards (Lib Dems); inflation-rate rent increases (Labour, Lib Dems); and banning lettings fees (Labour and Lib Dems, the government is currently consulting on plans to implement this)
While the Conservatives say they plan no further welfare cuts, Labour and the Liberal Democrats both pledge to scrap the bedroom tax and reinstate housing benefit for under 21s. The Lib Dems also plan to increase local housing allowance to average rent levels (an issue we’ve highlighted) with Labour proposing to end the six-week waiting time for Universal Credit and the sanctions regime – policies we know are causing unnecessary hardship.
Of course these are only promises – and they mean nothing unless they are backed by robust, long-term plans, resources and action.
CIH will be calling on whichever party forms the government on 9 June to do three things: build more homes that people can afford, commit to reducing homelessness and review the impact welfare policy is having on access to housing and on homelessness.