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General election: we quiz the Conservatives and Labour on housing News Post Image 3rd July 2024

General election: we quiz the Conservatives and Labour on housing

by Paul Howe

This article has been reproduced from the Rightmove website...

We think it’s really important that the housing market is top of the agenda for whichever party wins the election.

There are a number of changes we’d like to see from the next government to help home-movers.

We asked both the Conservatives and Labour how each of their parties would help home-movers if they won the election.

The questions we asked were based on some of the key housing issues that over 14,000 home-movers and our partners (estate and letting agents and new homes developers) told us were important to them.

We had responses from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the Leader of the Opposition Sir Keir Starmer, along with Housing Secretary Michael Gove and Shadow Housing Minister Matthew Pennycook.

We’ve also included thoughts from our property expert Tim Bannister, and mortgage expert Matt Smith.

We started by asking each leader what their first priority would be for the housing market.

Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, told Rightmove:I know the joy and sense of security that comes from getting the keys to your first home. Boosting homeownership is good for families and good for society, and that’s why we will abolish stamp duty entirely for first-time buyers purchasing a house up to £425,000 and introduce a new, improved Help to Buy scheme so that more young people can get on the housing ladder. Labour have failed to meet our pledge on stamp duty, meaning if you buy a house under Labour, you’d pay more tax. Labour has a disastrous record on housebuilding; the last Labour government oversaw the lowest level of housebuilding since the 1920s and Labour mayor Sadiq Khan has failed to meet his targets for London. With unchecked power, Keir Starmer would raise the tax burden to the highest level in history, making it harder for people to save for their own home.”

Leader of the Opposition, Sir Keir Starmer, told Rightmove: “Only Labour has a serious plan to tackle the housing crisis. After fourteen years of the Tories, the idea of owning your own home has become a pipe dream for many. If we have the privilege of being elected on the 4th of July, we’ll take the action needed to get Britain building again, delivering 1.5 million new homes and reforming the planning system.”

We then asked Housing Secretary Michael Gove and Shadow Housing Minister Matthew Pennycook questions on the following issues:

Building new homes

Building more homes is one of the housing challenges we’ve highlighted as a priority for the next government to tackle. If new homes can be built more quickly, while still maintaining their quality, it could help more people wanting to move to their next home or to get on to the property ladder.

Over the past five years, there have been lots more people looking to move than there were homes for sale, which has been one of the factors that’s pushed up house prices by 22% since 2019.

Our property expert Tim Bannister says: “One thing that could help is if the next government can create smoother planning processes to transform the delivery of new homes and produce more affordable housing.”

Question: How would you help the UK to build more homes?

The Conservatives’ Michael Gove told us:We have a clear plan to deliver 1.6 million homes in England in the next Parliament. As Conservatives, we understand the critical need to provide more people with the opportunity to own their homes where they want to live – close to their family, friends, and job. Our track record is strong, having delivered over 2.5 million homes since 2010. But we will not rest on our laurels. In the next Parliament, we will deliver a record number of homes each year on brownfield land in urban areas. We will also focus on building new family homes and mansion blocks on sites that have been derelict for too long. Moreover, we will abolish outdated and ineffective EU legacy laws that are unnecessarily delaying new housing projects – a move opposed by the Labour Party. Supporting local and smaller builders will be a key part of our strategy, enabling them to deliver more homes on smaller parcels of land. Taken together, this is a comprehensive and ambitious plan designed to meet our housing needs head-on, ensuring that we continue to build homes for the future.”

Labour’s Matthew Pennycook told us: “Our immediate focus would be to reform the planning system, starting with updating the National Planning Policy Framework.

“Other measures include finally getting serious about boosting Local Plan coverage, building a series of large-scale new communities, including a new generation of new towns; further reforming outdated compulsory purchase compensation rules that inflate the cost of land to the benefit of speculators, reintroducing cross-boundary strategic planning, and adopting a strategic approach to greenbelt land designation and release to build more homes in the right places.

“We are confident that the targeted series of interventions we have outlined will enable us to ramp up supply, tackle the housing crisis and boost economic growth.”

Help for renters

Spiralling rents and a lack of available homes will mean pledges relating to the rental market will be closely watched by many – including us. Since 2019, demand from tenants is up by 32%, while the number of available homes is down by 38%.

Question: How would you help renters?

Labour’s Matthew Pennycook told us: “We will act where the Tories have failed and make renting fairer, more secure, and more affordable. We will legislate to immediately abolish Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions, prevent private renters being exploited and discriminated against, empower them to challenge unreasonable rent increases, and take steps to decisively raise standards, including extending ‘Awaab’s Law’ to the private sector.

“In the long-term, the only real way to take the heat out of the private rented sector is to build more homes to buy and rent, including a far greater number of genuinely affordable social rented homes. That’s precisely why we have a plan to build 1.5 million homes over five years and to oversee the biggest boost to social, affordable and council housing in a generation.”

The Conservatives’ Michael Gove told us: “Our housebuilding plans will mean there are many more homes available, particularly in inner cities where rental pressure is strongest. This will mean there is greater choice for private renters when it comes to finding their next home. Our Renters Reform Bill is ready to go and delivers fairness in the rental market for renters as we abolish Section 21, otherwise known as “no-fault” evictions. By doing so, we aim to create a more secure and fair rental market for all renters, giving them peace of mind and stability in their homes.”

Question: How would you help landlords to make sure that they do not choose to sell their properties?

The Conservatives’ Michael Gove told us: “Our Renters Reform Bill, which has garnered support from various landlord groups, aims to provide landlords with enhanced legal protections and clearer guidelines. It will streamline the process for landlords to evict tenants who are guilty of anti-social behavior, ensuring that landlords can ensure the upkeep of their properties. By providing landlords with stronger legal recourse and additional support, we aim to create a more stable and predictable rental market, encouraging landlords to retain their properties and continue providing much-needed rental housing. Additionally, our tax-cutting budget will put £450 back in the pockets of Britain’s workers and abolish the main rate of National Insurance entirely for the self-employed. Contrast our approach with the Labour Party, which wants to introduce rent controls – snatching control away from landlords – and raising numerous taxes across the board.”

Labour’s Matthew Pennycook told us: “There is some evidence to suggest that a proportion of smaller landlords have exited the sector since 2018 – largely as a result of tax changes introduced by George Osborne and rising interest rates in the wake of Liz Truss’ disastrous mini-budget – but no robust evidence for a mass exodus as some have purported.

“Good landlords have nothing to fear from Labour’s plan to overhaul the regulation of the private rented sector. We value the contribution that good landlords make, and we will of course consult with them every step of the way about our legislative intentions. We want to establish a better regulated and thriving lettings market but we are calling time on unscrupulous landlords who exploit tenants and jeopardise their security of tenure, with all the implications that has for national productivity and growth.”

Help for first-time buyers

Juggling paying rent, saving for a deposit, and earning enough to be accepted for a mortgage have added to the challenge of being able to buy a home, so we think it’s important that long-term solutions are put in place to help people get on the property ladder.

Our recent study showed that the average monthly mortgage payment made by first-time buyers has increased by 61% compared to 2019, when the last general election took place.

Our mortgage expert Matt Smith suggests a review of mortgage affordability criteria could help first-time buyers: “There’s an opportunity to unlock greater affordability in a responsible way, which could help more first-time buyers get on the ladder.”

Question: How would you help more first-time buyers get on the property ladder?

Labour’s Matthew Pennycook told us: “Rishi Sunak has admitted during this election campaign that owning your own home has got harder after 14 years of Conservative Government.

“Yet despite homeownership rates flatlining, the Prime Minister decided to put the dream of owning a home further out of reach for working families by caving in to his own anti-housebuilding backbenchers over mandatory housing targets and torpedoing housing supply.

“Labour’s plan to get Britain building will unlock the dream of home ownership. Our new Freedom to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme will support first-time buyers who don’t have access to the ‘bank of Mum and Dad’, so those who can afford mortgage repayments but struggle to save for a large deposit.

“We’ll also work with developers to give local people ‘first dibs’ on new developments, ending the farce of entire developments sold off to international investors before local people get a look in.

The Conservatives’ Michael Gove told us: “In addition to increasing housing supply, we will take immediate steps to support more people onto the housing ladder. We will ensure that the majority of first-time buyers pay no Stamp Duty at all by abolishing the tax they would have paid on homes worth up to £425,000, lowering the upfront costs associated with buying a home. Additionally, we will launch a new and improved Help to Buy scheme, offering first-time buyers an equity loan of up to 20% towards the cost of a new build home, enabling them to enter the housing market with just a 5% deposit on affordable interest terms they can afford. We will also continue our Mortgage Guarantee Scheme, which has already assisted over 40,000 households in buying a home, and we will support more families in buying homes through shared ownership. This range of initiatives demonstrates our unwavering commitment to helping first-time buyers. Contrast this with Labour’s approach to raise taxes on working people by £2,094, burdening young people with more costs and preventing them from being able to afford to buy a home of their own.”

Making homes greener

High energy bills and a focus on climate impact have led to a renewed focus on going greener for all of us. But the costs and awareness of making green changes remain a barrier to households across the UK, and 83% of home-owners we spoke to think action needs to be taken to help people make green improvements. There are currently at least 18 million homes with an EPC rating of D or below, which is over half of the UK’s housing stock.

Question: How would you help both homeowners and landlords to make their homes greener?

The Conservatives’ Michael Gove told us: Almost half of homes in England are now energy efficiency Band C, a stark improvement from just one in seven in 2010. Over the next three years, we will invest £6 billion in energy efficiency to make around a million homes warmer. And we will fund an energy efficiency voucher scheme, open to every household in England, to support the installation of energy efficiency measures and solar panels, helping families lower their bills. We have also made changes to planning rules, known as permitted development rights, which will mean more homeowners and businesses will be able to install solar panels on their roofs without going through the planning system, bolstering our world-leading renewables sector and reducing bills for consumers with panels. But crucially, we will give households the time they need to take these steps in a staggered way that works for them. This is worlds apart from Labour’s approach, which is to force households to go too hard, too fast on making their homes greener. This will result in them clobbered with enormous costs and higher bills – and that’s all before Labour raises their taxes by £2,094.”

Labour’s Matthew Pennycook told us: “Labour will deliver a national Warm Homes Plan to upgrade every home that needs it over a decade.  We will invest over the course of the Parliament to deliver up to 5 million home upgrades, saving families on low-incomes hundreds of pounds per year, eliminating fuel poverty by 2030, and getting Britain back on track to meeting our climate targets.   

“Our investment will be split between energy efficiency grants, delivered hand-in-glove with local authorities to target the areas and families in most need and government-backed zero-interest loans for green home upgrades like solar panels; and grants to make sure heat pumps are affordable for people who want them.”

Whichever party wins the election, Rightmove will continue to push the government to help create a better property market for all home-movers.

All responses from the Conservatives and Labour have been published in full.

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