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What plans have the Lib Dems got for the housing sector?

Monday 01 October 2018

At the Liberal Democrats conference in Brighton they called for mandatory licensing, an increase in the notice period that landlords or agents have to give to tenants, and that private rental properties should have a minimum energy rating of C, to be enforced on re-let or by 2024 at the latest.

Borrowing heavily from legislation changes already making their way through Parliament, or proposals already offered by other parties, they called for a ban on tenant fees and mandatory licensing with a public database of rogue landlords (this sounds familiar - elaborate).

They propose that the Housing Act be amended so that the notice period that has to be given for tenants is increased from the current two months to at least six months' notice, and that rents for private sector tenancies should be linked to inflation or wages. Furthermore they argued that there should be a right to buy (or first refusal) for sitting tenants when a landlord sells.

They reiterated their commitment to slow climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, announcing that they'd expect all private rental properties to have a minimum energy rating of C, to be enforced on re-let or by 2024 at the latest. 

By creating a British Housing Company as a dedicated, arms-length, not for profit non-governmental body they would acquire land of low amenity at current use value through compulsory acquisition to reduce prohibitive land costs and excessive developer profits. It's not clear whether this would be used for social housing, affordable housing to buy, or whether there would be wider plans. 

They said that there needs to be a more balanced management of the available local housing resource, arguing that too many people cannot afford to live reasonably close to where they work, or where they were brought up. Introducing a new use class in the Planning “Use Classes Order” for “Non-Permanent Occupancy”, would enable local communities to determine how many, or what proportion of, homes may be second/holiday homes. They would also introduce a stronger statutory definition on which to apply appropriate tax, entitlement, voter registration and other policies on properties.

As an extra deterrent to greedy investors with a surplus of homes not in use, the Lib Dems would introduce 500% Council Tax on homes bought as investment, but which remain empty for long periods of time.

Social housing

In terms of social housing the party promised a big expansion in 'Rent to Own' where occupants pay rent to housing associations, in return for an increasing stake in the property over time, along with a removal of the cap on local authority borrowing. 

The construction of 50,000 social homes for rent per year by both councils and housing associations rising as soon as practicable to 100,000 a year.

Commenting, Vince Cable said in his speech to conference: 

"There must be an ambitious programme of council house building by councils freed from central government control; an end to the enforced sale of social housing.

"and we desperately need a programme of low cost homes for rent leading to purchase for first time buyers and key workers. "

"The Government has spent too much on pursuing subsidies for owner occupation at the expense of building social homes for rent."