With June fast approaching and now all major UK party leaders out on the campaign trails, there remains a possibility that news, manifesto pledges or initiatives regarding the UK housing market could be discussed. Can party politicians remove themselves from snappy soundbites to focus on the future of UK housing?
What we know so far
Housing is a huge factor in politics in the UK but hasn’t been widely talked about in political circles thus far in 2017. We’ve had the Spring Budget and the Housing White Paper from the current Conservative government, but these didn’t answer questions on growth or building capacity. The housing market is slowing in growth and future house prices won’t see the kind of rise above inflation they’ve seen in the past 12 months.
Theresa May has yet to release the Conservative manifesto but will likely stand by their Housing White Paper. With so much focus on forthcoming Brexit negotiations, almost all other political arguments are being overshadowed.
They’ve made a four-step plan to fix the housing market, from building in attractive areas and protecting the Green Belt to rapid construction methods and diversifying the market with loans to smaller firms. There are as yet no numbers attached to these promises so cost and numbers of houses will likely be outlined when manifestos are published.
Leader Jeremy Corbyn has recently promised that his Labour government will build “1 million new homes”, half of which will be council and housing association properties which would be rented and “totally affordable”. It is clear that Corbyn wants to make Labour the party of housing, and is pulling conversation towards building new homes. With home ownership at its lowest level in England since 1985, Labour is tapping in to a controversial topic with great promises but no fiscal data to back it up.
Leader Tim Farron has criticised previous Labour and Conservative governments over their missed housing targets, and promises to build 300,000 new houses a year that are needed, including housing association and council houses. The Lib Dem housing plan also details the quality of materials used in construction of new homes, making them greener, more efficient and cheaper to heat for occupiers. They also promise to ban lettings fees for tenants and radically tackle the rented sector.
Will the election affect the housing market?
The UK housing market is going through a sluggish period and this general election could make it last longer, as elections tend to slow the housing market. Home-owners in the deciding stage (whether to sell or not to sell) may be put off for the time being. However, the time of indecision will only last until June and a potential surge could follow thereafter.
House prices in England and Wales have risen 259% between 1997 and 2016, according to the Office for National Statistics, but average earnings have grown by only 68%. At a time of political upheaval and a big question mark over the UK housing market, politicians have a lot to answer for when it comes to number of, and affordability of homes.