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Election fever!


So, while we wait for some more housing judgments (and they are coming. Austin v Southwark LBC is being heard in the Supreme Court tomorrow – Wednesday 21 April – and Thursday, for starters), I thought we might take a look at the main parties’ manifesto commitments on housing and housing law related issues.

The thing is, this won’t take long. Although there is an acknowledged affordable housing crisis going on, it isn’t something which makes a particular impact on the manifestos.

In no particular order…

The Tories give no commitment about spending on social housing, or any proposals for increasing social housing stock. Instead they promise to:

  • introduce a ‘foot on the ladder’ programme to offer an equity stake to good social tenants, which can be cashed in when they move out of social rented accommodation;
  • pilot a new ‘right to move’ scheme and introduce a nationwide social home swap programme, so social tenants can transfer their tenancy to another home or part of the country; and,
  • respect the tenures and rents of social housing tenants.

In addition “We will implement a range of measures to address the problems of the homeless, including introducing more accurate street counts and ensuring a Minister in each relevant department has homelessness in their brief”. It has to be said that this sounds like doing next to nothing.

It appears that a lesson of right to buy may have sunk in. Although the focus is entirely on extending property ownership, at least the ‘equity stake’ for ‘good’ social tenants does not mean taking more social housing stock out of use. Where the ‘equity stake’ money is coming from is less clear.

There is also a ‘general power of competence’ for local authorities, presumably along the lines of the LGA proposals [Link to PDF]. (I’d give long odds on this making it into reality). And, of course, they would scrap the Human Rights Act and, presumably, implement the plans for ‘dealing with‘ travellers who trespass, although I can’t find it in the manifesto. There are some other issues, like local planning being devolved to ‘neighbourhoods’ to say what kind of development they want (and that is another one I’d give long odds on making it into statute), but that is pretty much it.

The Lib-Dems announced that a) Councils would be allowed to keep the revenue from all new homes that they build as well as borrow against assets to finance the builds and b) a £1.1 billion spending commitment to ‘bring empty homes into use’. “People who own these homes will get a grant or a cheap loan to renovate them so that they can be used: grants if the home is for social housing, loans for private use.”

The Lib-Dems also promise to make sure repossession of mortgaged homes ‘is always the last resort by changing the powers of the courts’. No details.

Labour state that they intend to ‘reform the council housing finance system to enable councils to build 10,000 homes a year’. They also state that they will work with housing associations to ‘develop a new form of affordable housing targeted at working families on modest incomes’. Again, no details, but it will apparently involve building up an equity stake, so presumably a further form of shared ownership.


[…] when someone suffers repeated ASB [anti-social behaviour] and the police, council, courts or other agencies fail to act, there must be a stronger form of redress. So we will legislate to give people financial support to pursue legal injunctions, with the costs met by the agency that let them down.

Apart from the obvious point that the courts can’t instigate action on ASB in the first place, so can’t fail to do so, this one sounds like a potential mess waiting to happen.

Housing benefit will be reduced ‘to ensure that we do not subsidise people to live in the private sector on rents that other ordinary working families could not afford.’

There is a commitment to end rough sleeping by 2012, and on homeless 16 and 17 year olds: “Once there is enough provision to provide universal coverage we will legislate to change the law so that for 16 and 17 year olds the right to housing is met solely through supported housing” including training and parenting skills.

And also included is the National Landlord register already announced, but not implemented. No word on the mumsnet for tenants proposal…

That really is pretty much it for the manifestos on housing related issues. Remarkably little for such a core issue. I trust that this has helped in making your mind up…

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts.


    • NL

      ‘Open Source’ planning? Oh my deity. So the Tories are going for the Linux vote? Somehow I hadn’t seen them as the party of GPL policies.

      I had forgotten your sole culpability, as the unscrupulous money grabbing, legal aid hogging human rights lawyer, for the abolition of the HRA. Well done.

  1. simply wondered

    thanks; most helpful. a superbly asinine collection of vapid newspeak about letting communities decide things, dangerous rehashed family-values bollocks and a good 30% for which i can’t even guess a meaning – and that’s with a first in english!
    my mind is even more made up.

    • NL

      ‘We Read It So You Don’t Have To’ (TM)(R)

  2. CB

    Aren’t there already a multitude of national homeswap schemes availible?

    I’m not sure how much value for money setting one up would be.

    Granted, it would give tenants in less salubrious areas a chance to move somewhere more picturesque but I’d question whether anyone would want to move the other way. Would you want to swap your 3 bed semi Council House in rural Cornwall (if such a thing still exists) for a 3 bed highrise in Mandela House, Peckham?

    Nice to see someone mentioning homelessness though although I’m not sure that “ensuring a Minister in each relevant department has homelessness in their brief” isn’t a euphemism for “rounding them all up and hiding them for the duration of the Olymipcs in 2012” a la the Parisien authorities at the Rugby World Cup in ’07.

    I remain as apathetic as ever

  3. Marcin

    I’ve always found it odd that in a country where less than half of households own their own home, no political party makes the obvious leap of pandering (in the best possible sense) to those of us who rent their home.

  4. Marcin

    Tories: At least 5 years behind on the buzzwords.

    The actual concrete proposals seem to largely involve bringing quangos into a government department.

  5. simply wondered

    nice quangos of course – not nasty labour quangos, which will be abolished and expunge the budget deficit at a stroke.


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