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Policy roundup

Thursday 05 October 2017

It's been a busy couple of weeks for British politics, with both the Conservatives and Labour hosting their annual party conferences.

Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference, Prime Minister Theresa May vowed to get Government back in the business of building houses, after promising an additional £2 billion to build affordable housing.

The fund, she announced, would be available for councils and housing associations to bid for, and in areas of high rent, the homes built for social rent could be let at below market level.

During the eventful speech, the Prime Minister sought to claw back voter confidence by pledging an additional £10 billion in support of Help to Buy. Helping more people to buy their first home is part of the Conservative's push to win back younger voters. The plans are due to be outlined in the Budget on 22 November, although no details have been given on the source of the funding.

Ultimately, however, there was little substance in the Conservatives’ housing announcements and the entire speech was overshadowed by a collapsing set, an incessant cough, and comedian Simon Brodkin handing her a P45 claiming to be from Boris Johnson.

NAEA Propertymark Chief Executive Mark Hayward commented:

"The decision to extend Help to Buy until 2021 is a welcome opportunity for first time buyers, but as it is limited to new homes only, it does not benefit the market as a whole to any great effect."

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn also took to the stage at the Labour Party Conference, during which he announced his preparation for power. 

He proposed new powers to control rents, which, whilst vague, appeared to go beyond what was proposed in Labour's 2017 manifesto. Corbyn told delegates in Brighton: "Rent controls exist in many cities across the world, and I want our cities to have those powers too and tenants to have those protections."

This move has however since been criticised by industry figures and commentators, suggesting that rent control could lead to a significant reduction in conditions for privately rented properties and increased homelessness.

Following Sajid Javid's announcement of a Social Housing Green Paper the week before, Labour leader Corbyn was hot on his tail with a review of his own. In a shake-up to end Britain's 'social cleansing' scandal, he proposed the idea of a radical programme of action which would see local people, not private developers benefit.

During his address, the Labour leader also promised to let residents block gentrification projects, meaning that developers could only knock down a council-owned block if the residents who live in it agree in a binding ballot.

ARLA Propertymark Chief Executive David Cox responded to the announcement, saying:

"The Labour Party clearly hasn’t learnt the lessons of history. The last time rent controls existed the private rented sector went from housing 90 per cent of the population to just seven per cent. Whenever and wherever rent controls are introduced, the quantity of available housing reduces significantly, and the conditions in privately rented properties deteriorate dramatically. Landlords, agents, and successive Governments over the last 30 years have worked hard to improve the conditions of rented properties and this is like taking two steps backwards. Rent control is not the answer – to bring rent costs down we need a concerted house building effort to increase stock in line with ever-growing demand."