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Liberal Democrats outline plans to build 300,000 new homes a year

August 31, 2012 5:09 PM
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

Houses being builtLiberal Democrats will outline plans to tackle the housing crisis, stimulate the economy and generate jobs at Autumn Conference

The proposals, outlined in housing policy paper Decent Homes for All, would see up to 300,000 homes being built annually and provide greater powers for tenants and local councils.

The proposals include:

  • Building up to 300,000 new houses by supporting investment and giving local authorities and social landlords more freedom to build
  • Increasing protection for private tenants by promoting longer tenancies and cracking down on rogue landlords
  • Giving local authorities more power to control second homes and bring empty homes back into use.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader, Simon Hughes MP said:

"Successive governments have failed to address what is now a housing crisis.

"A shortage of homes has made it impossible for many to get on the housing ladder and has seen rents, especially in big cities, rise to historic and unaffordable highs.

"That's why Liberal Democrats have outlined our most ambitious ever proposals for building the new homes Britain needs.

"Building 300,000 new houses a year will ease demand, stimulate the economy and generate jobs. It's a win-win.

"We also want to give tenants more security and empower local councils to bring empty homes into use and end the scandal of overseas investors buying up property only to let it sit unoccupied.

"We need to be shamelessly ambitious if we are to tackle the problem head on. Everyone is entitled to a decent and affordable roof over their head and Liberal Democrats are committed to delivering it."

Motion - Decent Homes for All

Conference notes with concern that the historic failure to create a sustainable housing model has implications, not just on individuals and families, but on the wider economy and jobs market. In particular:

  1. The failure to build enough houses is making home-buying increasingly unaffordable and forcing rents higher and higher.

II. More and more families are facing the instability of short-term leases in the private rented sector, and too many tenants are suffering the consequences of bad landlords.

III. Poor housing is bad for health and holds back achievement in school.

IV. The rapid increase in rents and the increasing number of people renting privately is putting welfare budgets under intense pressure.

Conference believes the most effective way to put housing on a sustainable footing in the future is to give more power and control to: those trapped in poor housing and short tenancies; small organisations, cooperatives, companies and individuals wanting to build but held back by corporate land-banking and lack of land and finance; and local communities and councils.

Conference endorses Policy Paper 104 Decent Homes for All and its key priorities to:

A. Build more homes, providing environmentally sustainable homes where people need them, helping with jobs and with kick-starting the economy.

B. Give tenants more power and security, making social landlords more accountable and improving standards and security in the rapidly growing private rented sector.

C. Ensure more local control, giving local councils, communities and individuals more power and autonomy to create thriving neighbourhoods in the face of the hugely diverse range of challenges that they face.

1. Conference calls for action to deliver our priority in building more homes, particularly to:

  1. Stimulate a major programme of house building, increasing the rate of construction until we reach at least 300,000 houses a year, using untapped sources of finance and giving more freedom to social landlords, local authorities and local communities.
  2. Take radical steps to improve land supply, through releasing public land with 'build now, pay later' deals.
  3. Tackle 'landbanking' through 'Community Land Auctions', 'use it or lose it' planning permissions and a competition review of the major builders.
  4. Require, wherever possible, all government-owned housing to undergo energy efficiency improvement through the Green Deal by 2018, and all registered providers by 2025 - and bringing environmental standards to current levels whenever planning permission is extended.

2. Conference calls for further action to give tenants more power and security, including to:

  1. Increase protection for private tenants, promoting new longer tenancies and access to a housing ombudsman.
  2. Give social housing tenants an even stronger role in how their providers are run - with tougher standards of accountability enforced by the Social Housing Regulator. We will also give tenants the power to vote to change their social housing provider and have their stock transfer to another provider willing to receive them.
  3. Ensure a stronger role for the Social Housing Regulator, giving them the power to proactively cover 'consumer' standards, reintroducing a programme of inspections.

Option A:

d. Reduce restrictions on the power of local authorities to set up comprehensive or targeted licensing schemes in any area they deem appropriate; establish a national licensing system for managing agents; and promote longer tenancies.

or:

Option B:

d. Require all private landlords to obtain a license from their local authority, with national minimum standards for licensing and additional standards to be implemented at the local authority's discretion; establish a national licensing system for managing agents; and promote longer tenancies.

3. Conference calls for more local control over housing policy, including to:

  1. Give local authorities greater ability to control second homes, not just in rural areas, but also in areas such as central London - where increasing numbers of homes are bought by overseas investors and left empty.
  2. Improve powers to tackle the blight of empty homes , giving local communities, housing associations and individuals a greater role in refurbishing them and bringing them back into use, and providing loans for private individuals to renovate an empty property, repaid through rent or sale, and reducing VAT on renovation.
  3. Encourage more flexible local planning through optional use classes that allow greater control of second homes and private rented accommodation.
  4. Allow social housing providers (including local authorities) to vary rents based on a tenant's ability to pay, on a sliding scale up to market rent levels for those on the highest incomes.

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