Rent controls and an increased investment in social housing have been proposed in the Liberal Democrat election manifesto, out today (20th November).
Overseeing a ‘substantial building programme’, plans include that of building 100,000 homes for social rent each year, helping to ensure the current demand of 300,000 homes is met.
A full reform of the private rented sector is also outlined, with a focus on helping young people into the rental market by establishing a new Help to Rent scheme to provide government-backed tenancy deposit loans for all first-time renters under 30.
Released today, the party’s proposals also include:
- Helping finance the large increase in the building of social homes with investment from our £130bn capital infrastructure budget
- Building new houses to zero-carbon standards and cut fuel bills through a ten-year programme to reduce energy consumption from all the UK’s buildings
- Devolving full control of Right to Buy to local councils
To help those who cannot afford a deposit, a new Rent to Own model for social housing will be introduced – giving tenants an increasing stake in the property, owning it outright after 30 years.
Proposals to allow local authorities to increase council tax by up to 500% where homes are being bought will also be introduced – with a stamp duty surcharge on overseas residents purchasing such properties.
The promotion of longer tenancies of three years or more with an inflation linked annual rent increase built in and improved protections against rogue landlords through mandatory licensing are also outlined.
To improve social housing, the political party have committed to:
- Set clearer standards for homes that are socially rented
- Require complaints to be dealt with in a timely manner
- Proactively enforce the regulations that are intended to protect social renters
- Fully recognise tenant panels so that renters have a voice in landlord governance
On homelessness, an ‘urgent’ cross- Whitehall plan to end all forms of homelessness is the main proposal as outlined to meet the party’s pledge to end all forms of rough sleeping within five years.
To do this, proposals also include:
- Exempting groups of homeless people, and those at risk of homelessness, from the Shared Accommodation Rate
- Making providers of asylum support accommodation subject to a statutory duty to refer people leaving asylum support accommodation who are at risk of homelessness to the local housing authority
- Introducing a ‘somewhere safe to stay’ legal duty to ensure that everyone who is at risk of sleeping rough is provided with emergency accommodation and an assessment of their needs
- Ensuring sufficient financial resources for local authorities to deliver the Homelessness Reduction Act and provide accommodation for survivors of domestic abuse
- Legislating for longer term tenancies and limits on annual rent increases
- Scrapping the Vagrancy Act, so that rough sleeping is no longer criminalised
Responding to the publication of the manifesto, David Smith, Policy Director for the Residential Landlords Association welcomes the plan to support younger tenants in accessing rented housing, but has said it is “tempered” by the party’s proposals for three-year tenancies.
“It is bizarre to be proposing this when the average length tenants have been in their properties is over four years and when private rents are increasing by less than inflation according to the Office for National Statistics”, he said.
On plans to build 300,000 new homes, Nick Sanderson, CEO, Audley Group said that although headlining grabbing, the plans are misinformed.
“Housing targets are not even close to being reached – the gulf is widening”, he said.
“As manifestos are published and debated, I urge the political parties to take another look at the broader possibilities to create enough homes.
“The larger properties that could be freed up if more specialist housing was built. The older people that would love to downsize.
“Our own recent research found that 27% of over 55s who downsized really struggled to find a suitable property.
“What a waste that is when those family homes would go a long way to creating movement in the housing market and halting the need to build over huge swathes of UK countryside.”
Anne Godfrey, Charted Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) Chief Executive, said the pledges were “very promising” and mirrored policy proposals in CIEH’s own manifesto.
“We were delighted to see the cast-iron commitment to making the elimination of fuel poverty, and the promotion of energy efficiency, national infrastructure priorities.
“It is also heartening to see their pledge to maintain the UK’s food and environmental standards as part of any future trade deal.
“We continue to call on all political parties to commit to supporting environmental health and the policies in our manifesto,” she said.