The Liberal Democrats want to speed up house building and stop house prices from slipping further away from the reach of families. Here’s how their manifesto says this will be achieved.
Increase house building to 300,000 new homes per year and in areas where the market fails to deliver, government agencies will directly commission homes for sale and rent to the fill the gap.
This target will be reached via:
- The creation of 10 new Garden Cities in areas of the country where homes are most needed and there is local support, five of which will be created along a “Garden Cities Railway” between Oxford and Cambridge. Additionally, Local Authorities in rural areas will be encouraged to follow the principles, albeit on a smaller scale.
- A new government-backed Housing Investment Bank will be established which will help to attract finance for major housebuilding projects and provide long term capital for major new settlements – presumably the Garden Cities.
- Compulsory Purchase legislation will be reviewed so that sites can be more readily assembled.
- Development on unused/unwanted public sector sites, with Local Authorities given new powers to ensure development happens.
Currently there is no explanation of how this will be achieved, instead the manifesto says the LibDems will tell us within the first year of the next Parliament. However, it does say that policies that promote home-ownership will focus on new builds.
The manifesto recognises that house building cannot increase without changes to planning. In this regard the LibDems intend to work with Local Authorities, putting the LAs in the driving seat, to facilitate an affordable local housing market. This will involve longer term planning, more detailed assessment of the types of housing needed, and cooperation with neighbouring authorities.
Development on brownfield and town centre sites would be prioritised. However, the LibDems would bring to an end the current permitted development rights for converting offices to residential.
The planning appeals process would be tightened to ensure that outcomes are more closely aligned to Local Plans including not allowing developers to appeal against decisions that are in line with the Local Plan.
Local Authorities would have to keep a register of people who want a self-build plot and meet demand, including through “affordable land”.
Additionally Local Authorities would be give the power to ensure that new housing developments were occupied, and levy 200% Council Tax on second homes where deemed appropriate.
Reading further into the manifesto, there is a section on affordable housing which pledges to scrap plans to exempt smaller developments from being obliged to provide affordable homes.