Manifesto Head-to-Head: Comparing property pledges in party election pitches

How do housing promises and ambitions stack up in the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat manifestos?

The last General Election saw housing right at the top of the agenda. This time around, it’s been relegated to near the back pages of the major parties’ manifestos…

But there are still some chunky policy pledges in the documents, with all major parties recognising the need to tackle the underlying issue of housing supply by building more, and the importance of building decent quality, sustainable homes.

The Lib Dems emerge as the most radical of the three major parties, largely because they’ve included more in the way of housing policy detail than either the Conservatives or Labour – and because they’ve proposed a 200% Council Tax levy on empty properties…

Here’s a quick summary of housing policies as outlined in each of the three main party manifestos:

Conservative

Download the full Tory manifesto here (PDF, 86 pages)
  • The headline: “Homes for all”
  • Key message #1: “Fix the broken housing market”
  • Key message #2: “Build better houses”
  • Number of times “housing” is mentioned: 29

Detail

  • Deliver a million homes by the end of 2020, and another 500,000 by 2022 (this is the same commitment as in 2015).
  • “Reform and modernise the home-buying process so it is more efficient and less costly”. This, according to Michael Gove speaking on Radio 4, may involve “revisiting” Home Information Packs.
  • 160,000 new homes to be built on government land.
  • “Build better houses, to match the quality of those we have inherited from previous generations. That means supporting high-quality, high-density housing like mansion blocks, mews houses and terraced streets.”
  • As per the Housing White Paper: “Speed up build-out by encouraging modern methods of construction and give councils powers to intervene where developers do not act on their planning permissions; and we will diversify who builds homes in this country.”
  • The manifestos blames local councils for some poor quality new-builds: “Councils have been amongst the worst offenders in failing to build sustainable, integrated communities. In some instances, they have built for political gain rather than for social purpose.”
  • Right to Buy: Fixed-term council homes to be sold privately after 10-15 years, and be offered to tenants first.
  • Reform Compulsory Purchase Orders in favour of councils.
  • Maintain the existing protections for the Green Belt, National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Labour

Download the full Labour manifesto here (PDF, 126 pages)
  • The headline: “Secure homes for all”
  • Key message #1: “Britain has a housing crisis – a crisis of supply and a crisis of affordability.”
  • Key message #2: “Housing is about homes for the many, not investment opportunities for the few.”
  • Number of times “housing” is mentioned: 23

Details

  • Create a new Department for Housing to oversee the creation of over a million new homes (no timeframe supplied).
  • Build 100,000 council and housing association homes every year by the end of the next Parliament. These will be available for “genuinely affordable” rent and sale.
  • Start a review of Council Tax, including look at whether a Land Value Tax would be better.
  • Help for “bookend buyers”, with more homes promised for later-life needs and first-time buyers.
  • Homeowners to be offered interest free loans for home improvements.
  • Help to Buy to be guaranteed until 2027, and give local buyers “first dibs” on new homes in the area.
  • Uphold/improve minimum housing standards, including space requirements and insulation/energy efficiency.
  • Creating a new batch of New Towns on Brownfield; protect the Green Belt; avoid urban sprawl.
  • Keep the Land Registry in public hands, and make ownership of land more transparent.
  • “Back” leaseholders, specifically regarding ground rent escalations.
  • More protection for private renters, including:
    • an inflation cap on rent rises;
    • licences for landlords;
    • a ban letting agents’ fees;
    • three-year tenancies as standard.

Liberal Democrat

Download the full Lib Dem manifesto here (PDF, 97 pages)
  • The headline: Build more, fairly
  • Key message #1: Give locals more power and influence
  • Key message #2: Use sticks rather than carrots to get developers to do the right thing
  • Number of times “housing” is mentioned: 23

Details

  • An additional Council Tax levy of up to 200% on second homes and “buy to leave” properties – aimed at thwarting overseas investment.
  • “Directly” build new homes to contribute to a total of 300,000 new homes a year by 2022
  • Build 500,000 affordable, energy efficient new homes by the end of the next Parliament.
  • New penalties for developers who do not build on land within three years of gaining permission.
  • Stop developers from advertising homes abroad before they have been advertised in the UK.
  • More protection for private renters, including:
    • a cap on up-front tenancy deposits;
    • licences for landlords;
    • a ban letting agents’ fees to tenants;
    • three-year tenancies as standard, with inflation-linked annual rental increases;
    • tenants to get first refusal to buy their home if their landlord decides to sell.
  • A new “Rent to Own” scheme, allowing rent payments to turn into/build-up equity in the property over time. Capital investment in the scheme is promised at £3bn by 2022. Tenants would be able to convert their payments to full ownership after 30 years.
  • A new British Housing and Infrastructure Development Bank, with £5bn capital to start with, to facilitate the above, and enable housing organisations to fund construction of Rent to Own homes.
  • End Right to Buy if local councils want to.
  • Create a community right of appeal in cases where planning decisions go against the approved local plan.
  • Scrap the “bedroom tax”.
  • Affordable housing exemptions for smaller developments to be scrapped.
  • Local authorities to get more power to deal with developers who don’t deliver on affordable housing requirements.
  • Introduce a Green Buildings Act to ensure every home in England reaches at least a Band C energy rating by 2035, and bring back a zero-carbon requirement for new homes.
  • Build at least ten new Garden Cities.
  • No mention of protecting the Green Belt.