general election

What could a 2024 general election mean for UK property market?

The next UK general election is widely expected to be called later this year, and each party has made different promises regarding the country’s housing market.

Since the start of 2022, the Labour party have been ahead in the opinion polls looking at who is set to win the next general election. As of this month, the polls show that 43.6% intend to vote for Labour’s Keir Starmer, compared with 23.2% for Rishi Sunak’s Conservative party.

This is followed – although not closely – by Reform UK with 13% of support, the Liberal Democrats with 9.2%, and the Green party with 6%. It is therefore largely expected to be a two-horse race between Labour and the Tories, and while each party will release a pre-election manifesto ahead of the general election, it is interesting to see where they currently stand on the UK property sector.

Similarities ahead of the general election

Both the Conservatives and Labour have made it clear for a number of years that they want to increase housing development, although they are likely to go about achieving this in somewhat different ways. Both have set housebuilding targets to strive towards, with various measures set out to create more homes.

They have also suggested measures to increase land supply, unlocking various sites to alleviate the shortage of housing stock and adjusting planning rules to accommodate for this.

In the rental market, both parties have proposed a similar set of changes to improve things for both landlords and tenants, while both seem to want to tighten the rules around holiday homes and short-term lets. Similarly, both would potentially overhaul or abolish the leasehold system if they won the general election.

Labour’s housing stance

Last week, Labour made the headlines after it unveiled plans for building on the “grey belt”, which is said to be made up of poor quality areas in the green belt which are generally on the outskirts of built-up areas. This would be alongside its “brownfield-first” approach, said Keir Starmer.

Grey belt land would include “poor-quality scrubland, mothballed on the outskirts of town”, with Starmer pointing out one particular case of a disused petrol station in Tottenham that is currently designated as green belt land.

Labour has set out its “Get Britain Building Again” pledge, which offers a five-point plan for kickstarting growth. You can read the details of this here.

Affordable housing is also one of Labour’s main priorities. It wants at least half of all housing development on these sites to be considered affordable, available to those who would otherwise not be able to afford homes in the local area. Annually, Labour wants to build 90,000 affordable and social homes to rent each year.

Looking at the rental market, Labour has in the past cast “significant doubts” on the Renters Reform Bill that is currently making its way through Parliament from the Conservatives. However, Labour has said it would bring in a Renters’ Charter, which makes some similar changes to the current Bill such as ending no fault evictions, and introducing a four-month notice period for landlords, among other things.

While the current Conservative government has taken a step back from its focus on the energy efficiency of the country’s housing stock by scrapping minimum EPC rules in the private rented sector, Labour has committed to a Warm Homes Plan which would upgrade millions of homes.

Conservatives and the property market

One of the pledges the Conservatives have stuck by for a number of years is the promise to build 300,000 new homes a year, every year – although in more recent times, they have described this target as advisory rather than essential.

On affordable and social homes, the target is much lower though, with Michael Gove pointing to a 30,000 social homes target. This could change, though, as we approach the general election.

Unlike Labour, when it comes to increasing housing supply across the UK, the Conservatives appear keen to continue to avoid building on green belt land, and instead are looking to increase the density of existing towns and major cities by investing in more homes in these areas.

This involves prioritising building on brownfield sites, while also easing planning rules to make it easier for developers or homeowners to build upwards and increase existing spaces. The idea behind this is to create more homes in places where there are already amenities and transport links, while providing more infrastructure investment.

In the private rented sector, the much-discussed Renters Reform Bill continues to make its way through Parliament in the year of the general election, with it due for its next reading any day. This Bill sets out a number of measures to improve standards in the sector, from making it harder for landlords to discriminate, to improving the court systems to ensure landlords can legitimately evict tenants when necessary.

Things may change

These are just some of the main promises and plans that have been suggested by each of the two frontrunning political parties, many of which have changed and evolved over time.

With housing being one of the key issues for the country regardless of who takes power, it will be interesting to see what new pledges each political party comes up with in their manifestos once a general election is called.

While the general election must happen by 28 January 2025, most people are expecting it to be called this year.

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