Leaders Debate: Housing crisis on the agenda

In the final question of the ITV Leaders Debate, housing got thrust into the debate, saying “soaring costs are not giving young people hope for the future.”

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The housing crisis was part of the final question given to the leaders as they debated the future of young people on ITV.

From a question asked by the audience, the leaders of the SNP, Green Party, Liberal Democrat, Plaid Cymru and UKIP outlined their housing plans.

Both Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May refused to attend the debate.

Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), said on housing in her opening statement: “Housing is critical across the UK, we need to build more houses. We (Scotland) are working to a target of building 50,000 affordable houses over the next few years.

“We also shouldn’t take away vital support like housing support for under 25s.”

When pressed on her plans further by host Julie Etchingham, she said: “In Scotland we have actually ended the Right to Buy.

“It was controversial thing to do at the time but it helps to ensure that as we invest in building social housing, we are not then losing it later on and we help them into ownership later on.

“There is no doubt that housebuilding is key to getting the cost of housing down and we need to build homes that are affordable to people.

“I was listening to Jeremy Corbyn talk about lots of policies that the SNP has already implemented in Scotland but one of them was restoring council housebuilding. You have to be prepared to build the houses and you have to be prepared to protect them for the use of the public in the future.”

Leanne Wood, leader of Plaid Cymru, spoke less on housing in her opening statement, focusing instead on cuts: “I’d like to see those social security support cuts, like those to housing benefit which disadvantage young people, to be reversed.

But later in the debate, she said: “It makes absolutely no sense to build council houses and then sell them off as Margaret Thatcher did under the Right to Buy scheme.

“That has left us with a lack of social housing and that is one of the reasons we see high levels of homelessness today. If we are going to build new council houses, we can’t flog them off through the Right to Buy.”

Plaid Cymru set out their manifesto earlier this week, where they pledged to build 10,000 affordable homes in Wales.

Tim Farron, Liberal Democrat leader, used the example of his current living area, Cumbria, to show the extent of the housing crisis.

He said: “The difference between wages and house prices is staggering and it is only getting worse.

“That is why we will build, every year, 300,000 new homes – the bulk of which will be council homes – and we will allow councils to do it and we will make sure that government directly commission housebuilding if developers don’t do it themselves.”

Later, on the topic of Right to Buy, he added: “When me and my sister were ten, we lived in a two-bedroom house in Preston.

“My mums mate, separated from her husband and we ended up with six in the house. Felt like great fun at the time but I only realised later that it was because Thatcher sold off council houses so there weren’t any available.

“What we (Liberal Democrats) will do is lift the borrowing cap to allow councils to borrow to build, allow housing associations new access to finance so they can borrow against their stock to build and then you allow the government the power to directly commission brownfield sites and raise the money of the sale of that land at the end, you actually make a profit whilst housing Britain’s future.”

Caroline Lucas reiterated her desire for “rent controls” in her opening statement, something that was a key pillar to her private members bill she introduced earlier this year.

In the follow up, she said: “We would be building 100,000 new council homes every year. We want to see half a million over the course of parliament.

“You do that quite easily by allowing a deposit to be put down, the government would put 80,000 down for each house.

“You then allow councils to borrow as currently they are not able to do so despite having that stock there to borrow against.

“That would mean you are able to build those houses cheaply and you would get that money back in the rent people would be paying.

“At the moment that rent is going to private landlords, £8bn or more is going to private landlords every year. If you were to build those council houses you would find that would pay for itself.”

UKIP leader Paul Nutall was the briefest on housing, saying: “We will have a housebuilding programme, 250,000 homes every year. A brownfield revolution that will help young people get on the ladder.

“The £10bn savings from the EU membership will easily allow us to build 250,000 affordable homes every single year.”

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