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Political leaders vow to tackle housing crisis

The main political leaders tell Rightmove that significantly more homes need to be developed to help curb rising house prices, and yes, Ed Miliband is still planning to ban letting agent fees.


rightmove_survey_electionHigh residential property prices are the single biggest concern among home-hunters, a new Rightmove survey reveals.

The latest data from the property portal shows that asking prices for homes on sale in England and Wales hit an all-time of £288,133, on average, in the month to early April, pushed up by a drop in the number of properties on the market, creating a lack of choice in the market, which incidentally, is the second biggest concern for house-hunters.

miles-shipside-rightmoveMiles Shipside (right), Rightmove Director and Housing Market Analyst, commented, “April’s Rightmove House Price Index reported an all-time high in asking prices this week of £286,133, setting an interesting challenge for political leaders. Failure to meet house-building targets since the eighties, nineties and noughties to match forecast housing demand has been a major factor in upwards price pressure both in the property sales and private rented sectors. “

As the cost of housing is a key concern for many home-hunters Rightmove asked David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg for their proposed solutions to make more affordable homes available, and what else they would do to try and solve the UK’s housing problems.

Here are extracts from the interviews with the three main party leaders:

Q1: We’ve seen strong growth in the housing market over the past five years, but this has made it harder for people to get on the housing ladder. What would you do to address this over the next five years if you win the election?

david_cameronDavid Cameron: “I want Britain to be a country where people who work hard are able to buy a home of their own. So we’ll continue doing everything we can to remove the barriers that stop people taking that first step onto the housing ladder. We came to office after the deepest recession in our peacetime history. Construction had all but ground to a halt. We’ve done everything we can to turn that around by getting our economy growing and reforming planning. And it’s working. The builders are building again – and today there are 700,000 more new homes than there were at the end of 2009. We will build on that, so there are even more homes for people to buy. Another problem we found was many would-be homeowners earning the money to pay a mortgage but not enough for a deposit. That’s why we stepped in with Help to Buy, helping them get over that hurdle. The effects are clear: over 204,000 households have been bought or reserved through government-backed schemes in the last 5 years. And we will do something else too – continue turning our economy around, so mortgage rates remain low and even more people can have that amazing feeling of getting the keys to their own home.”

ed_milibandEd Miliband: “A huge part of the problem is supply. There just aren’t enough homes being built – less than half of what is needed to keep pace with demand. So our focus has got to be construction, and making sure ownership is a realistic ambition for younger buyers. To help young people and families get on the housing ladder, we will give local authorities the power to give first time buyers priority access to new homes in areas of housing growth. We will create a Future Homes Fund, which will require that the billions of pounds saved in Help to Buy ISAs are invested in increasing housing supply. We will tell developers who are hoarding land and waiting for it to rise in value: you have to use it or lose it. Our devolution plans will give local authorities more powers to designate unused or abandoned sites as priority areas for house-building.”

nick_clegg_lib_demsNick Clegg: “The most important job for the next government is to finish fixing the economy, but to do so in a way that is fair. A strong economy means more house building, and more money in people’s pockets to pay the mortgage or rent. And a fair society means more tax cuts for those on lower and middle incomes, and protecting the vital public services we all depend on.

“We cannot sit on our hands while a whole generation of people are squeezed out of the housing market. Liberal Democrats want to see 300,000 new homes a year by the end of the next parliament, including ten new Garden Cities in the areas where homes are most needed. This should include “rent to own” homes – where your rent payments gradually build you a stake in a property – to help those who can’t afford a deposit.
And we all know that housing isn’t just about bricks and mortar. We need to create communities, whole towns with the infrastructure and amenities they need – places where people genuinely want to live.

“No ifs, no buts – too many governments have failed on housing and this is now just something we have to get on and do.”

Q2: What is your house building target and how would you ensure a large proportion of them are affordable?

david_cameronDavid Cameron: “Labour’s top-down housing targets built nothing but resentment. But we are working with councils and house builders to get Britain building. In 2014, a total of 253,000 new homes got planning permission in England. Our goal now is to get those started on site. We also have a Government-backed affordable housing programme which will deliver 275,000 new affordable homes in the next Parliament, bringing in the public and private investment we need to have more new affordable homes in this country.”

ed_milibandEd Miliband: “We will get at least 200,000 homes built a year by 2020. Local authorities will have greater flexibility to build more homes, which will allow them to build more social housing.

“We will also make sure developers face tougher rules about honouring their obligations to provide affordable housing. And finally we will prioritise capital spending on housing.”

nick_clegg_lib_demsNick Clegg: “We have set an ambitious target of building 300,000 more homes a year by the end of the next parliament – because the way to make sure homes are affordable is to build the homes we need now, and also deal with the historic failure to keep up with demand. Labour and the Conservatives are yet to match this – and appear to have failed to grasp the scale of the challenge.

“We will also make sure these homes are green and energy efficient – meaning better insulation and therefore lower heating bills.”

Q3: How do you think the Help to Buy ISAs will help? Roughly how many people do you think will sign up to this scheme?

david_cameronDavid Cameron: “When we came to office, one of the problems we found was young people who had decent jobs, who could afford mortgage payments, being completely unable to get together that lump sum they needed to buy a home. For that reason they were trapped – stuck renting or living with parents, with their own place remaining just a pipedream. That’s what Help to Buy has been changing: helping people – the majority of them first-time buyers, the majority outside London – with that deposit so they can turn their dream into reality. This ISA will go even further. It will give young savers a 25 per cent bonus on a final savings balance to contribute towards a first home, including a Help to Buy home. That’s worth up to £3,000 on savings of £12,000. Help to Buy has already helped 88,000 people get the keys to their own home. When it’s launched in the autumn, I hope the ISA will help many more thousands more to follow in their footsteps onto the property ladder.”

ed_milibandEd Miliband: “The First Time Buyers ISA should help many more first-timer buyers on to the first rung of the housing ladder. The Treasury has forecast that 60% of first time buyers will take this up, which seems a reasonable working estimate for now.

“It’s important to slow down the numbers renting long into their 30s, to limit the numbers in the so-called ‘generation rent’. We support the new ISA but, as I said above, the important thing is to reinvest the funds to build more homes rather than just stoke demand. Done like that we think ISA funds can create 125,000 new homes over a five-year parliament.”

nick_clegg_lib_demsNick Clegg: “There was a particular need to increase the supply of credit in the market at a particular moment in time, in order to restore confidence to the house building sector. But that period has now come to an end and it is right that the Bank of England phase this policy out. Our focus will be on making housing more affordable by building more of them.”

Q4: Do you think the private rented sector needs further regulation?

david_cameronDavid Cameron: “I’m in no doubt that standards and landlords’ professionalism need to keep improving. The risk is that more red tape and unnecessary regulation would make life worse for tenants. That’s why we’ve been very careful to strike a balance – and I believe we’re doing so. With our “How to Rent” guide, we’re making tenants aware of their rights and responsibilities. With our Model Tenancy Agreement, we’re helping to reduce agency fees. We’ve introduced a new code of practice for landlords; we’ve given councils more powers to target the rogues. Every step of the way we’ve rejected Labour’s calls for rent controls. Why? Because this interference would be disastrous for tenants, with fewer houses to rent, higher monthly payments and poor quality housing. We’ve seen the proof with Labour’s calls for energy price controls – they actually have the reverse effect of making energy bills more expensive.”

ed_milibandEd Miliband: “Absolutely. Renters need more stability, because at the moment rents can jump massively from one year to the next. To combat this we will introduce three-year tenancies with a ceiling on excessive rent increases, though tenants will still be able to give notice when they want.

“We will also ban the letting fees charged by agents to tenants – up to £500 every time someone moves. To us, that just looks like a rip-off.”

nick_clegg_lib_demsNick Clegg: “Yes. It was the Liberal Democrats in coalition who have led work to tackle those landlords who were not behaving fairly. No one should be evicted from their home because they make a reasonable complaint or ask for repairs – we have legislated to stop revenge evictions.

“The next step is to make sure that renters have more stability – just because you are renting doesn’t mean you don’t want to put down roots, decorate the way you want and feel settled in your home. So we will encourage family friendly tenancies for renters.”

Q5: What other housing policies would you introduce if you were elected?

david_cameronDavid Cameron: “We would introduce Starter Homes – 200,000 brand new houses that are only for first-time buyers under 40, which are 20 per cent cheaper than normal. Buy-to-let landlords can’t snap them up, nor can foreign investors. Our housing policies are all about saying to young people “if you work hard and you want your own home, this is a country where you can fulfil that dream” – and Starter Homes will be a huge part of that.”
ed_milibandEd Miliband: “Lots of voters – especially in London and the south-east – are rightly concerned about overseas investors buying flats as piggy banks with no intention of ever living in them. We’ll give councils the power to double council tax on homes left empty for a year. We will also require new homes to be marketed in England first, rather than sold off-plan overseas.”

nick_clegg_lib_demsNick Clegg: “For many people, particularly young people, getting a deposit together has become an impossible hurdle to both renting and buying. We need to give people a helping hand – so I want to see a government backed tenancy deposit loan for the under 30s, and a “rent to own” scheme so that each month’s rent is buying a share in your home, until you own it outright.”


May 1, 2015

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