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Housing on the agenda at UK party conferences

Housing has featured prominently at the recent party conferences. We take a look at what Labour and the Conservatives pledged.

Labour housing pledges

In his speech to the Labour party conference, Jeremy Corbyn made several pledges in relation to housing and rents:

  • A Labour government would ensure that all residential rented accommodation was “fit for human habitation.” The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill was voted down by the House of Commons in June 2017, though it should be noted that there are other regulations dealing with housing standards.
  • Undeveloped land held by developers would be taxed, with the government retaining the ultimate power of compulsory purchase, in a reiteration of the previous leader Ed Miliband’s “use it or lose it” policy.
  • The Labour leader proposed a system of city-based rent controls, whereby individual cities would be allowed to control the rate of rent increases, and potentially rent levels themselves.
  • Finally, in relation to regeneration schemes, it was proposed to introduce 2 new protections for social tenants on developments which undergo regeneration:
  1. Tenants will be guaranteed a home within the same development
  2. Tenants will be permitted a ballot on whether regeneration should go ahead

Conservative housing pledges

In her keynote speech to the Conservative party conference, Prime Minister Theresa May announced that the government will invest an additional £2 billion into the development of new social homes, over the next 2 years. This should result in around 25,000 new social homes, which are expected to be targeted in areas including London and the South East.

This followed the PM’s announcement on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday, that an extra £10 billion will be allocated to the Help to Buy scheme. This additional funding is aimed at getting another 135,000 people onto the property ladder, with home ownership in England having fallen from 70.9% in 2003 to 62.9% in 2016. However, there is evidence that suggests that the Help to Buy scheme has had an inflationary effect on house prices, with some research suggesting that the policy has increased the average house price by £8,250.

Meanwhile, Sajid Javid – Minister for Communities & Local Government, the English Department with responsibility for housing – used his speech  to announce several new measures aimed at strengthening the rights of private tenants. These included the development of incentives for landlords to offer 12-month tenancies, and 3 months’ notice of no-fault evictions; an ombudsman redress scheme for all private landlords; and the introduction of a regulatory regime for letting agents.

Mr Javid finally announced that the government will consult with the judiciary on the creation of a specialist housing court. Dispute resolution in the private rented sector is also currently under review in Northern Ireland; the Department for Communities has committed to examine the financial case for establishing an independent housing panel for Northern Ireland, and Housing Rights is currently completing research in this area.

Housing Rights private rented sector conference

Housing Rights is hosting a 1-day conference on the private rented sector in Northern Ireland on 15th November, titled “Working Together for Positive Change.” This conference will consider key emerging issues in the private rented sector including promoting good practice, ensuring compliance and the potential of dispute resolution. You can read more about this conference and book a place online.

Tagged In

Outside NI, Policy

Author

Stephen Orme