Tuesday, May 28, 2013

One Nation Housing – 50 Policies for Labour

The Labour Housing Group has published this consultaton paper on its own website and on the housing site "Red Brick" in advance of their annual conference next month:-

Housing is central to Labour’s One Nation approach and our plans for economic recovery and social well-being.
Housing Investment
1.       Housing should be a central feature of a new National Infrastructure Plan looking ahead 10, 20 and 30 years at the country’s requirements for a modern economy and a cohesive society.
2.       Increasing housing investment in all tenures should be a key component of economic policy.
3.       To ensure an adequate supply of affordable homes, capital investment subsidies should be restored to 2008 levels as quickly as possible, with over-riding priority given to building homes for social rent.
4.       Councils should be enabled to invest much more under the new self-financing regime. The existing borrowing cap should be lifted and international conventions for measuring public borrowing (which exclude public corporations) should be adopted.
5.       Smart national accounting should be adopted that recognises how housing investment contributes to savings in health, education and benefits budgets. 
Planning for Housing 
6.       Councils should be under much stronger planning duties to meet housing needs in their areas, to plan for mixed communities, and to co-operate in planning for new housing across sub-regions, especially City regions.
7.       Local plans should prioritise social rented homes separately from other sub-market rented and low cost home ownership homes.
8.       Local communities should benefit more clearly from development through requirements for affordable housing and other facilities.  
9.       The New Homes Bonus should be ringfenced to be spent on housing infrastructure and benefits for communities affected by development only and should be phased out.
10.    A proportion of new homes should be made available to people from the local area.
11.    There should be much stronger duties on public agencies to release land for affordable housing.
12.    As a general principle, brownfield land should be used first and broad Green Belt protections should remain.
13.    Minimum space standards should be applied to all new homes.
14.    More rapid progress should be made towards achieving high environmental and energy efficiency standards in new homes, with higher priority given to cycling, play and recreation facilities.
15.    Planning permissions should expire sooner and should be based on project completion.
16.    Planning powers should enable Councils to take more effective enforcement action against rundown and empty homes that blight neighbourhoods.   
Tenure Reform
17.    Labour should undertake comprehensive tenure reform with standard mandatory tenancy conditions across private and social renting.
18.    Labour should adopt a plan to ensure that the Commonhold form of tenure, introduced by the last Labour Government, is more frequently used.
19.    Labour should renew its commitment to co-operative and new forms of tenure.
Private renting
20.    The private rented sector should be modernised and reformed, with longer tenancies, more predictable rents, better regulation, and proper enforcement of safety and decency standards.
21.    There should be tough regulation of letting agents and encouragement of not-for-profit agencies.
22.    Stronger enforcement action should take place in cases of landlord crime like harassment, illegal eviction and theft of deposits.
23.    All landlords should be registered in a self-financing scheme.
24.    As part of a package of reforms, Labour should review the tax treatment of private landlords to encourage investment, and reintroduce repair grants to achieve a new PRS decency standard.
25.    Shared housing should be regularly inspected to ensure compliance with standards. 
Social housing
26.    All social landlords in receipt of public money should be subject to effective regulation and occasional inspection to achieve higher standards in terms of customer service, efficiency, governance, accountability, and viability.
27.    Statutory requirements for tenants to be involved in scrutiny and in the regulatory system should be strengthened and the right to complain to the Ombudsman should be strengthened.
28.    Labour should ensure that housing associations remain not-for-profit organisations and review the scale and use of their surpluses.
29.    There should be genuine ‘like for like’ replacement of Council homes sold under Right to Buy. Give-away discounts should be restricted. Councils should be enabled to take an equity stake in sold property and strict covenants should be applied in relation to future letting and onward sale. 
30.    A new social sector Decent Homes Standard should be adopted with stronger environmental and communal area requirements.
31.    All social landlords should produce an annual Asset Management Statement, demonstrating how they have made best use of their stock. There should be a presumption against unjustified sales of property.
32.    Security of tenure should be restored so there is a basic requirement that a household cannot lose their home without the landlord’s case being tested in a court. 
33.    It should be a priority to ensure that homes that have been ‘converted’ from social to so-called ‘affordable rent’ revert back to their original status.  
Home ownership
34.    Government help for home ownership should be targeted to provide help with deposits for first-time buyers.
35.    Labour should require the energy industry to provide better grants and loans to ensure minimum standards in energy efficiency.
36.    Repair grants should be reintroduced in housing priority areas to enable owners to bring their homes up to basic standards.
37.    Labour should work with the development industry to introduce a Rent To Buy scheme for first time buyers.
38.    Labour should work with the mortgage industry to deliver more loans at higher loan-to-value ratios but without encouraging sub-prime lending. 
Tax and benefits
39.    The total benefit cap should be regionalised to take proper account of rent differentials between areas of the country.
40.    Local Housing Allowance should be made available up to the level of median rents in an area rather than the 30th percentile.
41.    HB direct payments to landlords should be restored based on tenants’ choice.
42.    The ‘bedroom tax’ should be ended in favour of a new national plan to tackle under occupation based on incentives and a stronger ground for possession with a right to suitable alternative accommodation.
43.    Labour should develop and adopt a long term plan to switch from personal subsidies to investment subsidies in housing, reducing the benefit bill by reducing the cost of rented housing.
44.    A Mansion Tax on properties valued at £2m or more, or additional Council Tax bands, should be introduced.
45.    Options should be investigated to impose additional taxation on foreign buyers in the prime property market.  
46.    Additional charges should be levied on long-term empty properties and unused development land.
47.    A fundamental review of property taxation and reliefs should be undertaken, including council tax, capital gains, stamp duty, to find a system that meets wider housing objectives. 
48.    It should be a key target of a Labour Government to reduce homelessness. The strong homelessness safety net should be restored.
49.    A new National Tenant Voice should be created, for all tenants.
50.    Labour’s commitment is to encourage mixed and sustainable communities across the country - in cities towns and rural areas.


plymdaz said...

One point: "39. The total benefit cap should be regionalised to take proper account of rent differentials between areas of the country."

Its a shame that they seem to be blithely accepting the benefit cap, which is a completely unfair attack on the poor and vulnerable. Other than that, seems like a reasonably good set of policies!

John Gray said...

Hi Darren

I think that outside high cost housing areas people in the rest of UK do not understand how anyone can get £500 pw (or £350 if single) in benefits.

As long as the benefit cap is based on need then a regional cap (which will be more than £500 in areas such as London and I suspect Plymouth) is a potentially positive way forward.