We’ll deliver if developers don’t, said Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron as he unveiled the party’s election manifesto, which pledged 300,000 new government-built homes per year as well as measures to allow councils to build more social housing.
The manifesto was released yesterday evening, with housing as one of the party’s top priorities, promising both for sale and rent.
“If developers do not deliver the homes Britain requires, we will,” Farron said. “The government will become a house builder in its own right, bringing in contractors to build the homes and then selling them on the market.” The only way to end the housing crisis is for the government to take firm action. The market is shattered and has failed to deliver.”
Among the housing pledges in the manifesto are:
- Directly build homes to fill the market gap and contribute to the 300,000 home-building target by the end of the Parliament, through a government commissioning programme to build homes for sale and rent.
- Create a new government-backed Housing and Infrastructure Development Bank to provide long-term financing for major new settlements and housing construction projects.
- Allow local governments to penalise excessive land-banking when builders with planning permission fail to begin construction after three years.
- Allow councils to levy up to 200 percent Council Tax on empty homes, including second homes and overseas “buy to leave empty” investments.
- Ensure the construction of 500,000 “affordable,” energy-efficient homes over a five-year period.
- Smaller housing development schemes should be exempted from the obligation to provide affordable housing.
- Raise the borrowing limit for local governments in order to build more social housing for rent.
- Increase housing associations’ borrowing capacity through increased access to finance
“This is very personal to me,” Farron said. “As a teenager, I became interested in politics after seeing a repeat of Cathy Come Home, a heartbreaking film about a couple who became homeless, and I joined the housing charity Shelter as a result.” As an MP, I have witnessed firsthand the misery caused by people who do not have a proper place to live.
“Having my own place and then creating a home for my family was one of the proudest moments of my life.” However, for many people in the next generation, getting on the housing ladder is virtually impossible. They are deserving of assistance.
“If we have to penalise developers for land-banking and allow local governments to raise council tax on empty or unfinished homes, so be it.” To provide long-term capital for new settlements, we will establish a Housing and Infrastructure Development Bank.”
Terrie Alafat CBE, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), responded to the manifesto, saying, “We need a rapid and significant increase in the number of new homes being built to address our national housing crisis, so it’s encouraging to see the Liberal Democrats setting an ambitious target for house building and proposing to directly commission new homes.” Historically, only when the public sector was directly involved in construction have we been able to build anywhere near the number of homes that are required.
“However, it is not just about building more houses; it is also about building more affordable houses for people with lower incomes.” More homes are needed across the spectrum – for home ownership, private and social rent, and shared ownership – but we believe that more investment in affordable rental homes is urgently needed. As a result, the Liberal Democrats’ pledge to assist councils and housing associations in building more homes is heartening.
“Matching these ambitious plans with successful delivery will necessitate a long-term strategy combined with significant investment, so we’d like to see more detail on how these commitments will be funded.”
“We have called on the next government to ensure that councils have the resources they need to tackle rising levels of homelessness, and to ensure that welfare policies do not obstruct housing policies designed to ensure people can access a decent home at a price they can afford,” Alafat added. It’s thus encouraging to see the Liberal Democrats making a number of commitments on homelessness and welfare, such as increasing support for homelessness prevention, emergency accommodation, and supported housing, reversing cuts to housing benefit for 18-21-year-olds, scrapping the bedroom tax, and increasing Local Housing Allowance to match average rents.”
The National Housing Federation’s (NHF) chief executive, David Orr, said the manifesto demonstrates “real confidence” in housing associations’ ambitions to deliver new homes.
“We appreciate the emphasis on supply,” he added. “Every year, housing associations deliver tens of thousands of new homes for rent and sale, and they aspire to do much more.” We estimate that £3 billion in investment would enable the sector to build up to 100,000 new affordable homes, in addition to market rent and sale homes.
“With schemes like shared ownership, housing associations already do a lot to help people who are locked out of the housing market.” The sector is eager to collaborate with the Liberal Democrats to further develop the Rent to Own product so that it works for both tenants and housing associations.”
“We also support the effort to reverse the abolition of housing benefit for people aged 18 to 21.” This will help ensure that young people on low incomes can better meet their housing costs, and it will give housing associations the confidence to continue providing this much-needed housing.”