RICS welcomes the Liberal Democrats’ decision to comprehensively address housing within their manifesto.
The party promises to build 300,000 houses a year by 2024, a third of which will be social houses. How they plan to deliver these homes is not detailed, however, beyond increasing funding for building social homes within their £130bn capital infrastructure budget.
RICS encourages the Liberal Democrats to invest in and promote alternative forms of delivery, including modern methods of construction (MMC), in addition to traditional builds to help deliver these increased numbers. MMC allows for fast delivery of homes when compared to traditional building techniques, which will help those in greatest need within the social housing sector. Many housing associations have already seen the benefit of MMC in delivering much needed housing, with some setting up their own offsite factories to meet their requirements and solidify their supply chain.
MMC can also help contribute to the party’s ambition to continue to champion investment in the Northern Powerhouse and the Midlands Engine projects. The economies of the northern and midlands regions, which were traditionally industrial and manufacturing hubs, are contracting as traditional industries move out or shut down. MMC requires many of the same skills, and re-training could boost employment and utilise the existing regional workforce.
In the Access to Affordable Housing section of the Liberal Democrat manifesto, they link the introduction and extension of right to buy with the decrease in affordability, depletion of stock and the origin of the social housing crisis. The Liberal Democrats believe that devolving full control of right to buy to local councils will help this issue, but again the detail of what that devolution would look like, and how it would help, is lacking. In addition, they propose a successor to right to buy which would ’help people who cannot afford a deposit 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.’
While this proposal could help those within the social housing sector to buy a home, it would also take stock out of the social rent market. As with right to buy, any proposals that takes stock out of social sector must be partnered with appropriate replenishment measures to avoid deepening the housing crisis.
The private rented sector (PRS) is now the second largest tenure in England and home to a fifth of all households. RICS welcomes the party's focus on the rental market, especially on standards.
RICS worked closely with Lord Best as part of Regulation of Property Agents (RoPA) working group, and we welcome the Liberal Democrats commitment to introduce licensing and standards for landlords. We urge them to adopt the recommendations of the RoPA group to ensure minimum standards. We also encourage the Liberal Democrats to extend their ambitions for social sector standards to the PRS as well.
Their ambitions for longer tenancies echoes RICS' PRS Policy Statement, released earlier this year, but we caution that attempts to control rents could force landlords out of the market or push rents higher than if the market is allowed to function on its own. We believe the future government should not interfere in areas where solutions already exist, such as the potential for some tenants to access deposit loans.
It is disappointing to see that the motion passed at the Liberal Democrat party conference to remove section 21 no fault evictions has not been included in their manifesto and seems at odds with their desire to provide tenants with greater security of tenure.
The Liberal Democrats' ambition for multiple tenures, sustainable land use, transport, and wellbeing meets many of RICS housing supply demands, but they must go further and recognise these are all elements of placemaking.
We urge the party to introduce placemaking policies that ensure we start building cohesive communities instead of piecemeal developments that don't align with one another. We would advise they move away from arbitrary number targets and look at policies that not only meet housing targets but add value to communities for years to come, create places people want to live, and benefit the health and wellbeing of those who live there.
The RICS manifesto recommends that an incoming government should give more planning control to local authorities that have significant and thorough local plans that reflect placemaking.