Over the past few decades, our main political parties have made various proposals and pledges on how they plan to change the housing market for the better. So why have we still got such a problem with the supply of homes we so desperately need?
For years now, there haven’t been enough social homes, homes to rent privately or affordable homes to buy – and successive governments have consistently struggled to meet new home building targets.
So, what are the latest proposals – how do the Conservatives, Labour and the Lib Dems plan to improve the housing market?
The good news is that the three main parties seem to be generally in agreement on most of the key policies. Here’s our round up of what was announced this October, at the party conferences and in accompanying papers:
The Private Rented Sector (PRS): Section 21 is set to go, with greater security of tenure for tenants
All three parties are committed to strengthening tenants’ rights and making sure that landlords can’t evict them without a legally valid reason.
Conservatives: Michael Gove confirmed that the Renters (Reform) Bill was on track to have its second reading this autumn – and this took place on 23rd October. Proposals in the Bill include:
- Banning section 21 evictions, but only once the court system is reformed
- Strengthening section 8 grounds to ensure landlords can regain possession when needed
- Replacing Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs) with periodic tenancy agreements - i.e. an end to fixed terms, with just a two-month notice period for tenants
- Introducing a “ground for possession that will facilitate the yearly cycle of short-term student tenancies”.
- Introducing a new Ombudsman for the sector
- Creating a Property Portal that requires landlord registration
The government also announced post the conference that they will “Scrap policies to force landlords to upgrade the energy efficiency of their properties, but instead continue to encourage households to do so where they can.”
For more details, see our blog, ‘The Renters Reform Bill - Top 20 Q&A for landlords’.
Labour: If elected, they would “Fundamentally reform the private rented sector, overhauling its regulation to markedly drive up standards and conditions and provide tenants with long-term security and better rights”. They intend to introduce a ‘Renters Charter’ that would include:
- Banning section 21 evictions
- Introducing longer notice periods for landlords
- Having a national landlord register
- Allowing tenants to keep pets
- Permitting tenants to make ‘reasonable’ alterations to their rented home
Lib Dems: Their proposals for PRS reforms would ensure “a fair deal for renters” by
- Abolishing evictions unless the tenant has broken the terms of the rental agreement
- Extending the default tenancy length from one to three years
- Introducing a national register and minimum standards for landlords
New homes: building targets of at least 300,000 a year
Conservatives: They have retained their existing ‘ambition’ of building 300,000 new homes a year. To date they have struggled to achieve this, although they believe they are on track to deliver 1 million homes in the current parliament. Their focus is on building on brownfield sites - land that’s previously been developed but is now vacant or derelict.
Labour: They would aim for 300,000 new homes a year and are keen to reinvigorate the social home sector and make sure private developers play their part in building affordable homes. Location-wise, their focus would be on building “the next generation of new towns” and more homes on ‘grey belt’ land – a new term that refers to things like wasteland and disused car parks, as opposed to green fields (green belt) or previously developed land (brownfield).
Lib Dems: They announced an ambitious target of 380,000 new homes a year, which would include 150,000 social homes. Their long-term plan would be for 10 new ‘garden cities’.
Continuing leasehold reform to eliminate ground rent
Conservatives: The current government has already begin the process of reform, with the passing of the Leasehold Reform (Ground Rent) Act 2022. As of 30th June last year, most new long residential leasehold properties in England and Wales have zero ground rent, and the intention is that:
- Banning leasehold on newly built homes in the future
- Existing leaseholders will be able to either buy the freehold or extend their leases for up to 990 years
- Once the current lease period expires, ground rent will revert to a ‘peppercorn’ rate (i.e. zero)
- The amount a seller has to pay for a ‘leasehold pack’ when selling their home will be capped
Labour: If they get into power, they will support the 12 Law Commission’s leasehold reform proposals which include one leasehold regime for houses and flats and ensuring leaseholders aren’t required to pay a landlord’s non-litigation costs.
Lib Dems: Their pledge is to “abolish residential leaseholds and cap ground rents to a nominal fee, so that everyone has control over their property.”
What is apparent from the current policies is that although there are some differences, many of the aims of the political parties are similar: build more homes and give more rights to leaseholders and tenants.
The government recently confirmed that it won’t move forward with abolishing section 21 until the court system has been improved.
In a letter to MPs, Michael Gove stated that the following improvements should be made before any other reforms proposed in the Renters (Reform) Bill were implemented:
● Digitising more of the court process
● Prioritising certain cases, including anti-social behaviour
● Improving bailiff recruitment and retention
● Strengthening mediation and dispute resolution
● Giving tenants better legal advice
He wrote: “Together, these reforms will ensure the modern and efficient court processes needed to make the Renters (Reform) Bill a success – delivering the fairer private rented sector that landlords and tenants deserve.”
In response, shadow levelling up secretary, Angela Rayner, said that the Government had betrayed renters: “The Conservatives’ long-promised ban on no-fault evictions has majority and cross-party support across the house, but this flip-flop kicks it into the long grass.”
We’ll continue to keep you updated as the Bill makes its way through parliament.
If you have any questions about housing supply or the impact of the Rent Reform Bill, do remember that we’re here to help. Just get in touch with your local Your Move branch and have a chat with one of our experts.