Labour Fights Back on Housing Policy
Housing policy continues to be a top issue in the election
When David Cameron just a few weeks ago unveiled his plan to extend Right to Buy to Housing Association properties, he hoped to tap into the populist instincts of voters on housing policy. It wasn’t quite a silver bullet and Cameron received some criticism from media outlets such as The Economist for trying to buy votes. But housing remains an important issue in this election and Labour have not missed the opportunity to offer up their own big promises.
Over the weekend, Miliband unveiled rent control proposals capping increases at the rate of inflation (currently 0.3%) as well as plans to give tenants three-year contracts. This follows previously announced measures from Labour to ease the burden on renters, such as preventing estate agents charging fees before tenants have even moved in. Where Cameron receives slack for buying votes, Miliband’s critics are targeting him with the same lines they adopted in response to the energy price freeze: manipulating the market and distorting it for the worse.
Miliband hasn’t been overly naïve on housing. He recognises that Margaret Thatcher powerfully reinforced the tradition that home ownership, not renting, is the ultimate British aspiration. The Conservatives have certainly been more vocal on this angle of housing. Labour on the other hand have been limited to their plan to build a million new homes by 2020 which acted as the only sweetener for those keen on home ownership.
Now however, Labour have strengthened their offer. First-time buyers in new housing areas will receive priority to new markets and significantly, Miliband has announced that he would scrap stamp duty for first-time buyers on properties worth under £300,000. Labour can now argue that they have a rounded housing policy with supply side solutions (200,000 a year), support for ‘generation rent’ and a leg up for first-time buyers too.