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Press release

2 DEC 2019

Conservatives on housing: home ownership

Tamara Hooper RICS

Tamara Hooper

Policy Manager

London, UK

RICS

The Conservative party manifesto states that home ownership is one of their 'most fundamental' values, evidenced by their many housing pledges that support home ownership. They have also outlined a broad plan for housing overall.

Housing supply

The Conservative manifesto maintains their current housing target of building 300,000 homes a year. They have failed to achieve this number since the policy was first set out after the 2015 election, but their manifesto announces steps that could help close the gap. They are the first party to declare support for modern methods of construction (MMC) and making it easier for people to self-build if they choose to do so.

They also support the creation of 'environmentally friendly homes' that will lower energy bills, but unlike the Labour and Liberal Democrat manifestos, the Conservative manifesto does not address how this will be achieved or how many people this might benefit.

The manifesto includes a £10bn Single Housing Infrastructure fund, which is intended to support the construction of essential community infrastructure, including schools and GP surgeries, before people move into their new homes.

We welcome the inclusion of this Infrastructure fund, as RICS strongly recommends that instead of chasing a numerical target, an incoming government should focus on empowering local communities to identify local tenure, infrastructure and locational needs.

Architecture, Crane, Construction
RICS suports the Conservative party's committment to a £10bn Single Housing Infrastructure fund, to support the construction of essential community infrastructure

The planning system

The Conservative manifesto also pledges to amend the planning rules. The current planning regime has been unable to deliver the target numbers of communities since 2015, even as the housing crisis has deepened. Despite this failing, there is no pledge or outline to increase the funding for the planning system within the Conservative manifesto.

RICS believes a simpler planning system is required and we urge the Conservatives to make placemaking a priority within a reformed planning system, to deliver homes and communities that contribute to the health and wellbeing of residents. We believe the next government must commit to properly funding and financing planning departments and master planners to address the housing crisis successfully.

First time buyers

Within the first months of his premiership, the Johnson administration committed to increasing access to and availability of shared ownership. This has been expanded in the Conservative manifesto through a commitment to make shared ownership 'fairer and more transparent.'The Conservative party intends to simplify the products and enforce a 'single standard for all housing associations, thereby ending the confusion and disparity between different schemes.'

In order to increase the number of first-time buyers, the Conservatives will 'encourage a new market in long-term fixed rate mortgages which slash the costs of deposits.' However, under the current help to buy system, buyers only contribute a five per cent deposit, so the extent to which this can be reduced, while remaining attractive to lenders and not promoting a bubble, remains unclear.

We believe the next government must commit to properly funding and financing planning departments and master planners to address the housing crisis successfully.

Social housing

As expected from a Conservative manifesto, there is an ongoing commitment to the right to buy scheme. They have also declared an interest in extending the voluntary right to buy scheme, which was initially piloted with a number of housing associations in the Midlands, into new pilot areas. However, Inside Housing reports that 'the pilot in the Midlands has so far seen just 529 sales agreed with the 'portability' element, which requires those in an exempt home to be offered an alternative – a particular sticking point.'

It is notable that the Conservatives have not announced how they aim to address the decrease in housing stock that right to buy causes, or changes to the way local authorities who replace these properties are funded or reimbursed. It is important that any policies that take homes out of the social housing stock are balanced with a clear outline on how the supply will be replenished.

The Conservatives intend to bring forward a social housing white paper, which will 'set out further measures to empower tenants and support the continued supply of social homes.' They are also committed to ending rough sleeping by the end of the next parliament, through continued enforcement of the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017. However, unlike Labour and the Liberal Democrats, there is no pledge to remove the Vagrancy Act 1824, which criminalises homelessness.

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Tamara Hooper RICS

Tamara Hooper

Policy Manager

London, UK

RICS

Tamara is our Policy Manager. She is based in London and works within the UK External Affairs team.

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