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The Land Song*

By J

Manifesto series (in order of publication)


Lib Dem



Lib Dems

What do the Liberal Democrats offer us?

At a purely personal level, I’ve been quite impressed with the Liberal Democrats over the past few years. Daisy Cooper has been very active in fire safety/leasehold work. Ed Davey has a deeply moving personal story (‘tho one suspects he’s going to have a tricky time once he has to appear before the Post Office Inquiry later this year). And the manifesto feels to me like the Lib Dems are finally casting off the damage of the Clegg-era and the coalition government. But it feels like some of the policies haven’t quite been thought through.

So, for example, one promise is to:

Deliver[…] a fair deal for renters by immediately banning no-fault evictions, making three-year tenancies the default, and creating a national register of licensed landlords

If you ban no-fault evictions, why do you need a three-year default? The Renters (Reform) Bill got this right. Make all tenancies periodic from the outset. You can restrict the availability of the “no fault” grounds for eviction so that they can’t be used in the first three years, but that’s not quite the same thing as making a three-year tenancy the default. Why should there be any default term?

Similarly there is a promise to:

   Giv[e]… local authorities, including National Park Authorities, the powers to end Right to Buy in their areas

Very welcome but not quite thought through. For one, such a power takes time and to prevent a rush of RTB applications you first need to slash the discount (which you can do by secondary legislation). Secondly, the risk here is that some authorities continue to allow RTB (and at the current huge discounts?). Given that the RTB has only ever worsened the housing situation, there is no good reason to keep it. One fears it might be retained by Tory councils with a view to the “homes for votes” idea that home-owners tend to vote Tory. That’s not something to prioritise with public assets.

Secondly, I worry that the Lib Dems are actually proposing a new form of RTB. They say they’ll

Help people who cannot afford a deposit to own their own homes by introducing a new Rent to Own model for social housing where rent payments give tenants an increasing stake in the property, owning it outright after 30 years.

Ok – better than the RTB but still fundamentally wrong to see public assets in private hands. We won’t have solved the housing crisis in 30 years time. Why are we making it easier for properties to leave the social sector?

The leasehold offering is strong but, again, one fears it isn’t quite thought through. So, for example, there is a promise to “[a]bolish… residential leaseholds and capping ground rents to a nominal fee, so that everyone has control over their property”. But abolition requires replacement. Commonhold? Mandatory share of freehold? Retrospective or prospective only? What is a “nominal” fee?

Similar with the promise to “[r]emove dangerous cladding from all buildings, while ensuring that leaseholders do not have to pay a penny towards it.” That will be very, very expensive (‘tho I tend to agree with the policy). How is it to be funded?

In short, promising, but needs more work – 5/10


*I know this was the song of the old Liberal party not the Lib Dems, but I can’t think of a Lib Dem song

J is a barrister. He considers housing law to be the single greatest kind of law known to humankind and finds it very odd that so few people share this view.

1 Comment

  1. adam

    having to move has this way of killing some people, especially as they age, preventing being forcibly moved is a pretty good reason to use RTB, if you’ve never been on the sharp end of someone at a local authority who can’t be arsed to do their job with an unreasonable amount of power over you without them being meaningfully supervised you won’t know what they’re like.


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