Labour, Conservatives and Lib Dems reveal plans to fix the UK housing crisis

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
Homes in Manchester. Photo: In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images

Labour is promising a “revolution” in council and social housing as it unveils its election manifesto, with the biggest construction boom in council housing since the end of the second world war.

The main parties have all set out plans to fix Britain’s housing crisis this week.

Several housing industry leaders called the latest plans from Labour on Thursday a “game-changer.”

Meanwhile the Conservatives promised new measures to help first-time buyers get on the ladder, and the Lib Dems said they would allow a 500% council tax hike on second homes.

Labour promise 150,000 council and affordable homes a year

Labour’s manifesto, due to be published on Thursday, will include “the biggest building programme in decades,” according to the party.

It plans to spend £75bn over five years scaling up council housing to reach construction levels of 100,000 new homes a year by the end of the next parliament.

The party said in a press release it would also help housing associations build at least 50,000 “genuinely affordable” homes a year, criticising and pledging to rewrite the current government’s definition of “affordable.”

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The party said the new award-winning council home development in Norwich was an inspiration, and vowed homes would be to “cutting edge design and green standards.”

“I am determined to create a society where working class communities and young people have access to affordable, good quality council and social homes,” said leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Kate Henderson, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, called the plans a “real game-changer,” while Chartered Institute of Housing CEO Terrie Alafat said they were a “welcome step.”

Conservatives vow to help first-time buyers and tenants

The Conservatives made their own pledge on housebuilding, vowing to tackle issues in the planning system to ensure at least 200,000 new homes a year of any kind are built over the next five years.

The party also confirmed plans in a press release to maintain a pledge made under former prime minister Theresa May to ban ‘no fault evictions,’ where tenants can be evicted without good reason.

A range of promised measures to help renters buy homes include long-term, fixed-rate mortgages only requiring 5% deposits. Local, first-time buyers could receive discounts of 30%, according to the party.

“We’ve committed £9bn to deliver a further quarter of a million more affordable new homes whilst continuing to build more homes – helping thousands more onto the property ladder,” said housing secretary Robert Jenrick.

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Shelter CEO Polly Neate said former Conservative prime minister Theresa May’s government had already pledged to scale up housebuilding to 300,000 new homes a year, though her deadline was the mid-2020s.

She welcomed the eviction reforms but said social housing construction was the “missing piece” in their plans.

Liberal Democrats pave way for major crackdown on second homes

Liberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson during the launch of her party's manifesto. Photo: PA

The Lib Dem manifesto unveiled on Wednesday had also matched May’s previous commitment to raise housebuilding levels to 300,000 homes a year.

The party said at least 100,000 would be for “social rent,” which typically means discounted rent in council or housing association properties.

Another eye-catching pledge would see councils allowed to raise council tax by up to 500% on second homes, plus a stamp duty surcharge on overseas residents buying second homes.

The party promised to build homes to “zero-carbon standards” and give local councils decision-making power over right-to-buy housing policies.

A new ‘rent to own’ model could also be launched in social housing, allowing tenants to pay part-rent and part-stake in their properties over 30 years.