10 October 2023 – Party conference season is upon us, where the UK’s political parties vie for the public’s support, and this year, votes too, by setting out their policies. Was the housing market on the agenda this year?
Every year, as summer begins to fade, the political parties in this country gear up for party conference season. This year, it has particular significance, with a general election looming.
There has to be a general election by 25 Juanry 2025, and it is anticipated that the UK will go to the polls next year. All parties have switched to election mode and their respective conferences provide them with a platform to tell the public why they should vote for them.
During their conferences, each party sets out their future policies, presenting themselves as the best party to lead the country. So what did the Conservatives and Labour have to say about the housing market?
Housing Market Not Mentioned In PM’s Speech
The conservative party held their conference at the start of October in Manchester. Rather ironically, as the Prime Minister announced during the event that the HS2 leg from Birmingham to Manchester will be scrapped.
One thing the Conservative Conference wasn’t short of was controversy and big headlines. But the housing market was a topic that didn’t make it into Rishi Sunak’s speech last Wednesday.
Commentators have been disappointed about this, given that the UK is in a housing crisis. Rents are at record levels, with supply falling short of demand. Borrowing costs have risen sharply, making buying a home unaffordable for many.
Many homeowners have seen their mortgage payments skyrocket, adding to financial pressures caused by the cost-of-living crisis. House prices have been falling for several months now, signalling a cooling of the housing market.
And yet, the Prime Minister hasn’t mentioned the property market once in his speech. Industry insiders have lamented the lack of policies around planning, housing and infrastructure that would address the current housing crisis.
However, parts of the Conservative Party are interested in the property market, with fringe events about housing attracting a lot of attention. Michale Gove, Housing Secretary, spoke at one of those fringe events, telling the audience that the Renter’s Reform Bill will have its second reading this autumn.
He also pledged that this government will build more homes to meet demand and said that new homes will be energy efficient and zero carbon ready.
Mr Gove also announced that his colleague Rachel Maclean, Housing and Planning Minister, will reform the planning system, however no details were given.
So while many in the Conservative Party agree that something has to be done to address the housing crisis, no new ideas about how to solve it have come up during the party conference.
Labour Pledge To Build 1.5m New Homes
The Labour Party kicked off their party conference on Sunday in Liverpool and in Angela Rayner’s opening speech, she pledged that her party would reform the planning system to get more homes built.
The Labour Deputy Leader and new Shadow Housing Secretary also said that as part of these reforms, planning permissions would include a requirement for a percentage of homes in a housing development to be affordable homes.
Ms Rayner also said her party would reform the rental sector, including banning no-fault eviction.
While this is already part of planning permission, more often than not, developers manage to bring down the percentage, which Labour will prevent from happening.
Hours before Ms Rayner’s speech, Sir Kir Starmer, the leader of the Labour Party, pledged 1.5 million new homes in the first five years, if his party wins the next general election.
As part of Labour’s Affordable Homes Programme, the party plans to make it easier for councils to use funds from the right-to-buy scheme to build new homes. She also pledged to build more social housing that will be rented out.
It is very clear from Angela Rayner’s speech, that Labour is drawing a distinct dividing line in the sand between them and the Conservatives.
While the Prime Minister didn’t even mention housing in his speech, the Labour conference was opened by the new Shadow Housing Secretary, who made tackling the housing crisis a main part of Labour’s agenda.
The rental market in particular is suffering from a lack of supply, which has pushed up rents to levels we haven’t seen before. Many families are struggling to keep up with their mortgage payments, after interest rates have risen wildly.
Many first-time buyers are no longer able to afford to get onto the property ladder, unless they have substantial help from the bank of mum and dad.
And while there are signs that the housing market is correcting itself, the underlying issues need fixing: a not-fit-for-purpose stamp duty system, a lack of supply in affordable housing for sale and rent and a buying/selling process that is broken.
Party conference season isn’t the most exciting time for most people, but it does show which party is listening to the plight of the people. And for now, it looks like Labour is the better listener.