Britain is in the grip of a housing crisis.
There simply aren’t enough homes to buy, prices are skyrocketing and the young are increasingly finding themselves locked out of the property market - and stuck on the bottom of the ladder.
Successive governments have not only failed to tackle this challenge, they’ve made it worse.
Tackling this problem won’t be easy, but if we’re to build a society that is fair, free and open, it’s a problem we must tackle.
That’s why Vince Cable and the Liberal Democrats have set out a radical plan to tackle the housing crisis. This includes -
- A programme of large-scale affordable housing. Of the 300,000 new homes a year, at least 50,000 should be social rented housing, rising to 100,000 a year as soon as we can. Our ambition should be to build 500,000 homes a year in total within the next few years.
- A big expansion in ‘rent to own’. Housing associations would build properties for occupiers to pay a market-level rent. The additional margin would yield the occupier an increasing stake in the property over time. Variants of this model are already in use in Liberal Democrat controlled local authorities like Eastleigh, and these just show the capacity of local government to step up to the plate and tackle housing affordability head-on.
- A new, arms-length body that will be empowered by law to acquire land of low amenity and market value through compulsory acquisition and build houses available for five-year rentals which could be converted into freehold acquisitions with a mortgage.
- Raising quality, safety and environmental standards in existing residential properties. Liberal Democrats have detailed plans for a zero carbon Britain by 2050, and the existing – as well as new – housing stock is at the heart of it.
- Ending exploitative, greedy, negligent or neglectful practices in the private sector, which give the majority of good landlords a bad name. Measures include a publicly available database of rogue landlords; capping upfront deposit and banning letting agencies’ fees for tenants.
- Strengthening the sanctions for leaving homes empty, with fiscal measures to incentivise domestic use. For example, increasing the 200% council tax on homes deliberately left empty to 500%.
Finally, if we are going to improve housing supply, we must take a flexible and pragmatic approach to the Green Belt not ideological and dogmatic. Liberal Democrat campaigners all over the country have campaigned to ensure real green space – some of it green belt, some of it metropolitan open land – is protected where it provides real beauty and utility to the community.
But there are some parts of the Green Belt which have disused petrol stations or abandoned warehouses on them or places which – being immediately next to busy motorways – could hardly be called areas of beauty and tranquillity.
Nobody who is serious about resolving the housing crisis would argue that such sites should be off limits.
That is why I am also proposing to allow local authorities to “swop” sites of low environmental value in the Green Belt for green space in urban areas.
And if you’re in favour of ending the housing crisis, please add your name in support of the campaign now.