All political parties serious about winning the election in May cannot afford to ignore Britain’s housing crisis. At the kernel of the issue, fear and insecurity over renting and the shortage of affordable property in Britain have rendered housing to be one of the main concerns to first-time-buyers across the UK.
The Labour Party have pledged to address these concerns in their election policy. Ed Miliband has previously stated his ambition to double the number of first-time buyers in the country to 400,000 by 2025. Under a Labour government he aims to have 200,000 homes built per year by 2020.
This policy is not too dissimilar from the conservatives’, who as well as extending a ‘right to buy’ policy for over 1.3m homes, also want new homes to be built at a rate of 200,000, with a 20% discount for first-time buyers.
These numbers increase significantly with other parties: UKIP wish to utilise brownfield development by building 1,000,000 new homes on previously developed land; the Lib Dems would like to average 300,000 new home builds per year by 2020; and the Green Party would aim for 500,000.
Despite the higher numbers pledged by other parties, the Labour Party has been criticised alone by property experts who fear their policy on housing will be “a disaster for homeowners, landlords and tenants”.
But could a policy designed to help tenants and first-time-buyers really prove to be a disaster?
If elected in May, Labour have proposed to introduce mandatory three-year tenancy agreements on privately rented accommodation. They will also put a limit on how much landlords can increase their rates by each year.
According to Ed Miliband, this is intended to give “added security and peace of mind” to the 9 million people in the UK who rent privately.
Criticism of these reforms suggest that rent options will be severely limited and the general quality of rented accommodation will be reduced. A property expert has warned in the Telegraph that up to two thirds of landlords could leave the private sector should these reforms go through.
In the event that landlords no longer wish to rent, there may be a ‘boom period’ in house sales. This in turn could prompt a surge in other property-related markets including fast house sale companies such as We Buy Any Home. Companies like these, with expertise in the housing market and who recognise the diverse needs of buyers and sellers could prosper from such a shift.
Deterring Foreign Investment?
Murmurings of a reintroduction of the 50p tax rate under Labour could deter rich foreign investors from the country and make Britain seem anti-opportunistic.
Wealthy overseas buyers and chief executives might decide to relocate to other countries and leave a number of property developments unused or lacking potential buyers.
Around 8,000 new luxury apartments are expected to go on sale this year in London alone. There are fears that such developments will be increasingly more difficult to sell under a Labour government.
However, businesses who find their premises unoccupied may not have to face the massive expenditure of empty business rates. An increasingly popular option for property owners who are either struggling to sell, or in the middle of the development process, has been hiring a property guardian.
Oaksure are one company who provide this service, and explain the main benefits of property guardianship as security from vandalism and squatting, low-cost maintenance and dramatically high savings on business rates.
One of the largely unrecognised benefits of property guardians is that their license to occupy ensures that precious living space isn’t wasted. Effectively, with more property guardians and willing businesses looking to save money, there will be more properties available for those interested in the property guardian lifestyle.
Use it or lose it
This is a policy detailed in the Lyons Review – a Labour housing study – which aims to encourage the building and redevelopment of unused landholdings and brownfield sites for those landholders who have the planning permission to do so.
Crane hire company Emerson Cranes have overseen (literally) the development of London since their establishment in 1991. They have worked in a number of developments from social housing and railway construction to skyscraping multi stories. From their experience, they recognise that whichever government is in charge, development will continue to thrive whether it is for the purpose of housing, business or public services.
Labour’s housing policy is geared towards first-time-buyers and aims to invest in affordable housing development which is lacking across the country, rather than housing for hungry investors. However it is unclear whether the policy could also put an end to generation rent or simply make it more difficult to be a part of it.