One of the most closely contested General Elections for decades is now formally under way, with the NHS, economy, immigration, welfare and jobs all high on the political agenda.
But housing is also a major concern for many voters and could prove a key electoral battleground for the various political parties, according to pollster Ipsos Mori.
Ipsos Mori’s latest Issues Index reveals that 14 per cent of voters currently rank housing as among the most important issues facing the country, up from 5 per cent in 2010, as more people struggle to afford to buy their own home in light of higher property prices and a general housing shortage.
The Conservative party, which has reformed the planning system and introduced various Government initiatives including its flagship Help to Buy scheme since coming to power in 2010, has vowed to boost the level of discounted starter homes available for first-time buyers under the age of 40 if re-elected in May.
Writing in PROPERTYdrum magazine, Brandon Lewis (left), the Housing and Planning Minister, said, “We’ve supported the aspirations of hard-working people. Help to Buy is enabling homeowners to purchase with a fraction of the deposit they would normally require, and leading developers say they are building more homes as a result.
“Years of the last Government’s top-down housing targets had pitted communities against developers and built nothing but resentment. We radically reformed the planning system to put local people back in control. The result? Support for new house building rose sharply.”
Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), is among those senior property experts delighted to see the Conservative party “place housing on an equal footing with health and education”. However, he still believes that far too few new build homes are being proposed “when we need to be building 240,000 new homes every year”.
Labour has vowed to develop 200,000 new homes per year by 2020 to help alleviate the housing shortage should it win the election. The party also want to introduce a mansion tax for homes worth £2 million-plus, along with greater rent controls and longer tenancy agreements, among a host of other housing-related measures.
Writing in The Negotiator magazine, Emma Reynolds (right), the Shadow Minister for Housing, commented, “Labour is committed to tackling the housing shortage and we have set out a comprehensive plan to get at least 200,000 homes built a year by 2020. Under our plan, we want to see all local communities take responsibility for their own future and plan for the homes local people need. A Labour Government will make it compulsory for every local authority to have a plan which sets out how it intends to meet local housing needs.”
Elsewhere, in spite of weaker support, the Liberal Democrats will be hoping to win enough seats to see it return to Government as part of a Coalition, in the event of another hung parliament. They hope that their ambitious plans to deliver 300,000 new homes per year and introduce higher council tax bands will help to woo voters.