Labour housing

What is the Labour party promising for the UK housing market?

The Labour party are around 22 points ahead in the polls, so what is the party who might shortly be in power planning for the UK housing market?

The housing sector is widely regarded as one of the most prominent topics – or sticking points – in this general election, alongside the potentially more headline-worthy promises on taxes and tackling the cost of living crisis.

The Conservatives have generally placed the onus on homeownership during their 14 years at the helm, with an array of schemes such as Help To Buy and Shared Ownership aimed at getting more people onto the housing ladder, along with stamp duty cuts for first-time buyers.

This week, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has promised to support aspiring homeowners further by abolishing stamp duty permanently for first-time buyers of homes up to £425,000, while also committing to relaunching the Help to Buy scheme. This comes alongside a pledge to build 1.6m homes if elected on 4th July.

While what the two top contenders for the big job are purporting to offer the property sector is arguably not that different from one another, this could change as the campaign marches on and when the Labour party officially release their manifesto, which is currently expected on Thursday.

Labour and the housing sector

  • The party has previously pledged to build 150,000 new social homes every year, 100,000 of which will be council houses. This is to try and address the shortage of affordable homes across the country, and could have the effect of reducing pressure on the private rented sector.
  • Back in October, the party set a target of building 1.5m new homes over five years if it came into power, which is very close to the Tories’ promise. It also stipulated that plans must target at least 50% affordable housing delivery when land is released.
  • Labour has popularised the term “grey belt“, which refers to neglected areas such as poor quality wastelands and disused car parks that are in the greenbelt. These would be targeted for construction, along with brownfield land, before releasing greenbelt land for housebuilding.
  • The party wants to introduce and enforce more stringent build warranty standards for new-build properties, in order to guarantee that new homes are built to last. This would incentivise more people to invest in new-build property, with confidence in its long-term value.
  • Earlier this year, deputy leader Angela Rayner set out plans for new “towns of the future”, with a New Town Commission to be set up to decide the sites of these new towns. This plan harks back to the post-war Labour government, which built 32 new towns in total to deal with the housing crisis, including Milton Keynes, Stevenage and Welwyn Garden City.

Comments from the industry

There are a wide and varied array of opinions across the housing industry on the best course of action for whichever party comes into power after the 4th July elections.

One thing most experts agree on is the serious need for planning reform, with ongoing holdups and a planning backlog being one of the factors stunting the housing supply boost the country needs.

Anthony Breach, associate director at the Centre for Cities think-tank, said: “A construction boom would be really good for the economy. Planning reform would have a big impact on economic performance over the course of the next parliament — and the parliament after.”

However, Labour’s Margaret Greenwood has spoken out against plans for 240 new homes to be built on greenbelt near Greasby in her Wirral West constituency.

She said: “I’m pleased that Labour is bringing forward these plans to address the housing crisis and that we’re going to have well-designed homes and affordable homes but it’s important that they’re built away from the greenbelt.

“The greenbelt is there to provide a respite from urban sprawl and it’s a very important function.

“There’s room for over a million homes on brownfield sites so we should be building on those and having that urban regeneration that we desperately need to see.”

Speaking on Rishi Sunak’s plans to renew the Help to Buy scheme, the National Residential Landlords Association said: “Tenants who want to become homeowners should be supported to do so.

“Whilst incentivising landlords to sell to existing tenants has the potential to help, it will not reverse the damage to the rental market caused by tax hikes under recent Conservative governments.”

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