Want to rent? Want to buy? Struggling to do either? It doesn’t have to be this way. The Green Party has policies to make housing affordable and sustainable, to make sure there is enough to go round, and to provide better quality and greater security in the private rented sector. A secure and affordable place to live is one of our most basic human needs. But houses and flats are now sites of speculation rather than simply somewhere to call home. They were at the heart of the crash seven years ago, when reckless lending left banks unable to support themselves. We need to return housing to its original purpose: providing us – each and every one of us – with affordable and sustainable shelter.
There are three reasons for the current chaos and unfairness:
• A misplaced faith in the market as the way to meet housing needs, where the market for houses has too often reflected a desire
to make an investment rather than buy a place to live, and prices have risen faster than inflation;
• A lack of investment in public housing for at least 20 years, following Right to Buy and restrictions on what local authorities can do; and
• A private rented sector where too often people have insecurity of tenure and are being charged extortionate rents for
The housing market: House price stability
House prices continue to rise quicker than wages and inflation, and first-time buyers find it almost impossible to buy a home. If wages
had gone up by as much as house prices since 1997, the average person would be earning almost £30,000 more a year.
When house prices crash there are consequences for the whole economy.
The Green Party will aim for house price stability by making property investment and speculation less attractive and by increasing housing supply. We will:
• Give the Bank of England the powers it has requested to limit the size of mortgages in relation to the property value and the borrower’s income.
• Take steps to ensure that development is more evenly distributed across the whole of the country, so reducing pressure on housing in the South East in particular.
• Make ‘buy to let’ less attractive, so reducing pressure on house prices, by removing tax incentives, including the deduction of mortgage interest as an expense, and reforming the ‘wear and tear’ allowance.
• Introduce new higher Council Tax bands for more expensive homes, with higher rates for empty homes.
• Scrap the government’s Help to Buy scheme, which does nothing to help those in the greatest housing need and contributes to excessive demand, saving £600 million a year.
• Take action on empty homes to bring them back into use. There are about 700,000 empty homes. Halve this number through
Empty Property Use Orders.
• Gradually phase out Stamp Duty Land Tax and consider a Land Value Tax.
• Minimise encroachment onto undeveloped ‘greenfield sites’ wherever possible by reusing previously developed sites that have
fallen into disuse.
Reduce VAT on housing renovation and repair work (including insulation) to 5%, costing £1.6 billion a year. At present there is no VAT on constructing new dwellings but there is VAT at 20% on converting and renovating old buildings to be used as homes. This
encourages new building at the expense of saving land and using what we have.
Introduce the right to rent (where local councils step in to help those in difficulty with their mortgage to rent their home). One-third of mortgage borrowers are expected to struggle if interest rates increase by 2%.
Break up the big builder cartels and diversify the house-building industry so that more homes are built by small- and medium-sized
builders and by community-led and cooperative initiatives. In the short term we would achieve this by measures including bringing
transparency to the land market, the transfer of public land into community land trusts, and parcelling big regeneration sites into
smaller plots through the Custom Build model.
Public housing: Providing 500,000 new social rented homes
Successive governments’ affordable and social housing policies have failed. There is not enough housing for those unable to afford
either to buy or to pay market rents. The time has come to reverse the decline of council housing, started by the ‘Right to Buy’.
• Provide 500,000 social rented homes to high sustainability standards by increasing the social housing budget from £1.5 billion a
year to £6 billion a year in the lifetime of the Parliament, removing borrowing caps from local councils, and creating 35,000 jobs.
• Devolve Housing Benefit budgets to councils, so they can design packages that improve access to housing in their local market and enable them to provide more council housing.
• End mass council house sales and the Right to Buy at a discounted price.
• Provide more rights for homeless people, giving local authorities the same duties with regard to single people and childless couples as to families, and ending the practice of declaring people ‘intentionally homeless’. Aim to end rough sleeping completely, and give public authorities a duty to prevent it.
• Oppose new arm’s length management organisations and ensure genuine tenant participation in existing ones.
Make renting normal and not a rip-off
There is a place for a private rented sector. But experience shows that it needs to be well regulated and the difference in power
between landlord and tenant corrected. We would:
• Reform the private rented sector by introducing a ‘living rent’ tenancy (including five-year fixed tenancy agreements), smart rent control that caps annual rent increases linked to the Consumer Price Index, security of tenancy and local not-for-profit letting
agencies, and abolishing letting agents’ fees and insurance-based deposit schemes.
• Set up a Living Rent Commission to explore whether controls could bring rents more in line with local average incomes.
• Introduce a mandatory licensing scheme for landlords.
• Abolish landlord perks, such as tax deductions against a variety of expenditures, including mortgage interest relief. Ending
mortgage interest tax relief alone will raise £5.8 billion a year.
• Increase the supply of small lets by raising the tax-free amount under the Rent a Room Scheme to £7,250 a year.
• Abolish the ‘bedroom tax’, which has saved less than £400 million a year. A Department for Work and Pensions report found that more than half of affected tenants have cut back on essentials, and only 1 in 20 has downsized.
• Bring Housing Benefit for all age groups back in line with average market rents, so that it provides all citizens with the means to meet their housing costs, costing £2.3 billion a year.
• Subject the Shared Accommodation Rate to a comprehensive review to ensure it reflects the real cost of renting
• Change the definition of affordable rented housing to depend on local median incomes and not on local market rents.