As we move towards the election the Labour Party has released a very interesting manifesto regarding the UK housing market. While the launch of the manifesto was something of a shambles, having been leaked days before its official launch, there are some very interesting suggestions. While some have commented that we are “moving back to the 1970s” others believe these new Labour policies could at least make some voters think again.
Investment in 1 million new homes
It is sometimes difficult to understand what goes through the mind of a politician with the Labour Party promising to invest in 1 million new homes by the end of the next Parliament. At best the next sitting will be a five-year Parliament which means that the Labour Party would have to invest in 200,000 new homes a year. When you bear in mind that the current and recent governments have failed to top the 100,000 figure per annum this is certainly a big ask. Why did Labour not reduce this target to a more achievable level?
Council and housing association homes
Included in the 1 million figure in the Labour manifesto is a promise to build 100,000 council and housing association homes by the end of the next Parliament. The subject of council houses is a very hot topic because if you go back to the 1980s Margaret Thatcher effectively lit the blue touch paper on the U.K.’s home ownership trend by offering council tenants the right to buy. Rightly or wrongly this did have a major impact upon the UK property market and up until just a couple of years ago many councils were still offering the right to buy.
There are few people who would argue that the number of council/housing association properties across the country has fallen to dangerously low levels. However, it will be difficult to justify additional spending on 100,000 properties when many more have been “given away” at sub-market prices over the years.
Cap on rent rises
The suggestion that there should be legal minimum standards where properties are available for rent is impossible to argue against because this is simply common sense. Why should those in the private rental sector be forced to pay a market rent for substandard properties? Labour supporters have been waxing lyrical about the Conservative government’s refusal to introduce a minimum standard for private rental properties during the current parliament. However, one issue which is proving difficult to explain to voters is the proposed cap on rent rises.
The suggestion is that rent rises will be capped at inflation will, in some of the more sought-after areas of the UK, lead to landlords “losing money”. If this was the case, and landlords were unable to charge the market rate, where is the incentive to continue investing in buy to let properties? The idea of capping rents in a free market does not make sense and just when governments require significant investment from buy to let investors, why alienate them again?
Homes for rough sleepers
It is very difficult to understand how there are still thousands of people sleeping rough on the streets of the UK when recent data suggests there are literally hundreds of thousands of empty properties up and down the country. The Labour Party has stepped forward with a suggestion that 4,000 property should be put aside specifically for those with a history of sleeping rough. This is an argument which is very difficult to criticise but why has it taken politicians so long to come to this decision?