The housing crisis in Britain has become an emergency. For far too long Britain has built many fewer homes than we need. Unless we build enough to meet demand, year after year, we will find that housing costs rise further out of reach.
Just to catch up with what we need today, we have to build 300,000 homes a year nationally – almost double the current level. These new houses and flats must be sustainably planned to ensure that excessive pressure is not placed on existing infrastructure.
Elmbridge borough wants to meet the needs of its people in terms of housing. Yet at every turn it comes up against the elephant in the room – the British government – which undermines local government at every turn.
The Liberal Democrats would empower localities to look after the needs of their own population and their own priorities, rather than being dictated to by central government.
A Lib Dem approach in Elmbridge
What would a Liberal Democrat Elmbridge do to solve the housing crisis if the national government got off our back?
Without restrictions from central government, Elmbridge could:
Borrow funds to build social housing
Elmbridge has the ability to service the loans, especially as interest rates are still at an historically low level. We would be investing in bricks and mortar which is always considered a very safe investment. Elmbridge can’t though, because the national government heavily restricts our ability to do this.
Get money back when social housing is sold and reinvest this in more social housing
The national government forces local authorities and housing associations to sell houses at a discount of up to £80,000 under its ‘right to buy’ social housing programme, without any compensation to us, the owners. And then, prevents councils from using the revenue they do receive from the sales to build more social housing.
Improve the experience of renting
Elmbridge could ban letting fees for tenants, cap up-front deposits at a reasonable level, and increase minimum standards of repair and services in rented homes. We would Introduce longer tenancies, with an inflation-linked annual rent increase built in, to give tenants more security. Elmbridge cannot do this now because councils are prevented from doing this by the national government. Our national government makes it impossible for Elmbridge to implement all the improvements we could offer to people renting in the borough.
Stop developers reneging on development payments to local councils
When Elmbridge gives permission for a developer to build a block of flats or a new street, this is on condition that a certain proportion of the build is affordable housing. Alternatively, the developer may offer to pay a sum of money instead. The national government has made a law that allows developers to renege on paying this money once the development is built. This makes a complete mockery of the planning system.
Scrap stamp duty
The national government policy on stamp duty – a punishing 5% on homes over £250,000 across Britain – deters people from moving when they need more space. Instead of buying a larger property and releasing a smaller one to the market, residents add extensions and loft conversions – making smaller houses bigger and reducing the number of smaller homes for first-time buyers and couples starting a family.
The national government and the media often blame NIMBYs and local planning for the lack of housing in our country. This is far from the truth. It is primarily the national government’s taxation and spending policy that stops local governments like Elmbridge planning for building the homes needed for healthy communities.