Tag Archives: housing

Property Uplift Recovery Tax

The Liberal Democrats have proposed increasing income tax by 1 penny which would raise just £4.6 billion pounds annually. There is a better alternative, called the Property Uplift Recovery Tax which is being proposed by Liberal Democrat ALTER. The tax would be paid annually by all that own housing in the UK and are either:

  • British citizens who are have non-domiciled tax status
  • Foreign citizens (or British citizens non-resident for over 15 years) who are not taxed in the UK, or
  • Corporate entities registered offshore.

The tax would be levied annually on the property price uplift in the local area, and would aim to recover 50% of the long term increase. The tax would raise about £8.5 billion pounds per year (see fully referenced article ).

Taxes need a compelling story which resonates with the electorate, and this tax has one. We are rightly proud to live in a country with a strong economy, a stable government and respect for the rule of law. Housing in the UK is a safe haven for overseas investors, and 10% of housing is now owned by foreign investors. They often leave properties empty, indeed some residential developments in Britain have been likened to towers of safe-deposit boxes. In England 216,000 homes have been empty for over six months.

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Radical, liberal rental reforms are needed

The government has launched a consultation on banning letting fees, a proposal originally tabled by Liberal Democrat peer Olly Grender. It’s responsible and right to address the shortcomings for tenants of a private rental market that now accounts for 19% of all households. And as the consultation paper sets out, there’s an economically liberal logic to the ban as well.

As a liberal, I’m not against market-based proposals for social problems. On the contrary, I’m all for them. In the summer after I left school, I worked temporarily as a Housing Allocations Officer. I see no reason in principle why housing associations should be the main providers of homes to people on benefits, for example — providing there’s enough housing to go round, and so long as people aren’t trapped in poor-quality accommodation. Indeed, greater choice for those on benefits within the private sector may be to their advantage, and improve social mobility overall. What’s more, it’s cost effective provision from the point of view of the state. However, there’s an obvious barrier to decent private rental accommodation frequently faced by those on benefits: the reluctance of so many private landlords to rent their properties to them. For many people, this is unfair discrimination. Banning letting fees is a positive step, but won’t tackle this sort of problem. My issue with the government’s plans is that they’re another example of Theresa’s tokenism.

Private landlords, with perhaps a “buy to let” as their pension pot, and renters are both likely to be among our party members. What could we as Liberal Democrats propose to help groups of tenants with little available capital beyond their rent money into better quality accommodation and, at the same time, keep landlords on board who want to protect their assets from risk? 

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UK Government launches consultation on axing lettings fees – another Lib Dem win

Back in the day, Liberal Democrat peer Olly Grender worked for Shelter. Her passion to help people with housing matters has never left her and she continues to campaign on a range of housing issues. The pressure that she put on the Government resulted in their decision to end lettings fees for tenants. We reported that this was going to happen last November but the Government launched its consultation on Friday.

Olly introduced a Private Members’s Bill in the Lords last year which would have outlawed these fees. Five days after the debate, the Government announced the measure. Olly explained why it was so important to protect tenants from these charges in her speech proposing her bill:

Shelter’s research shows that average letting fees are £355 per move, with one in seven people paying £500. On rare occasions, renters have been forced to pay fees of £900 or more to a letting agent, simply for the privilege of moving into a home. Reference checks, credit checks, administration fees, inventory fees—the list goes on. Invariably, the fees charged are extortionate compared to the cost actually incurred by the agent and they are not necessary. Furthermore, any cost actually incurred should be covered by the lettings agent’s client—the landlord—not by the tenant. Far too often these high up-front costs are proving a barrier to tenants, who simply cannot afford to move.

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District councils: worried about funds and housing

Chris White (centre) talking about Brexit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

District Council leaders met in Lichfield late last week for the District Council Network conference. The DCN is part of the Local Government Association – which comprises most English and Welsh councils – and is a group set up to concentrate specifically on issues affecting district councils. There are similar groups for counties, metropolitan authorities and London boroughs.

Representatives in Kenilworth were clearly bruised by the decision of ministers to plug some of the adult care services funding gap facing county councils by transferring funds directly from districts.

Phrases like ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ were used more than once at the conference, with some justification: council tax increases and transfers between local authorities are no way to manage a national funding crisis which too few people, including the Liberal Democrats, took seriously even after the point at which the warning signs were unmistakable.

Apart from money it was largely, for Districts, housing and planning. There is clear nervousness about the impending new ministerial power to direct authorities to produce a joint local plan (hardly surprising given the careless abolition of structure planning by the Coalition) or by inviting county councils to take over the planning powers of laggardly districts: relations between districts and counties are always tense at best but red rags were clearly being spotted.

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Lord John Shipley writes…Five foundations for the Housing White Paper

The lack of affordable housing in the UK is at crisis point. On average, house prices are now almost seven times people’s incomes and over 1.6 million people are on housing waiting lists in the UK, including 124 000 homeless children. This means that the Government’s White Paper on housing has been highly anticipated. But it needs to be extraordinarily ambitious to tackle the severity of the housing crisis.

It is too late then to simply paper over the cracks. We need a radical, far-reaching and comprehensive approach to housing. That is why the Liberal Democrats are calling for a complete overhaul of the housing system, with an emphasis on five key solutions.

Creating more affordable homes for rent

20% of the population lives in private rented accommodation. And yet, private sector rents have become unacceptably high in many parts of Britain, most notably in London. Many renters are now paying more than half their disposable income in rent.

That is why we have been calling for government investment in a new generation of quality homes for rent that are affordable for those on low and middle incomes. This means increasing the access to finance for councils and housing associations and reversing the sell-off of higher value homes.

Because the need for affordable homes for rent is now so severe, this should be accompanied by an increase in the use of offsite construction, or prefabs, to speed up the house-building process.

However, Brexit has complicated this picture. That’s because building costs will increase significantly due to the rising cost of imported materials and because it will be harder to recruit vital workers from Europe who are needed in some parts of the UK and to create the certainty necessary for investment.

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William Wallace writes…What should the Liberal Democrats be saying to the “left behind?”

What should the Liberal Democrats be saying to the ‘Left Behind’?  We’ve claimed a strong position as the voice of the 48%; but there are many among the 52% who are not illiberal at heart, and others who voted ‘Sod off!’ in the Referendum to London as much as to Brussels in their disillusion with politics and the distant elite.  People who live on partly-sold off Council estates, or in places built to house workers in factories that closed 30 to 40 years ago, where local services have been steadily cut back and jobs are hard to get to, low paid and insecure, have some justifiable reasons to feel resentful .

Theresa May has spoken about the ‘left behind’ at the Davos World Economic Forum, but said little about what an’ active state’ (yes, she has used that term) should do to help them. Donald Trump in his inauguration speech promised ‘the forgotten people’ from globalisation that they will now be remembered, but didn’t say what he would do to help them beyond putting up barriers to imports.  The right-wing media in Britain have portrayed their problems as mostly down to fecklessness and immigrants – taking their jobs and the social housing they want to claim, weighing down the NHS.  Labour is wavering over whether to give in to that narrative, or address more underlying problems.

But what do we want to say, consistent with our values, and without pandering to the ‘blame the East Europeans’ narrative?  Liberal Democrat peers have set up a working group to address this, to feed into party campaigning in ‘left behind’ areas.  The London-based media portrays the political choices for such voters as between Labour and UKIP (having forgotten the Lib Dem record in cities like Sheffield, Liverpool, Newcastle, Hull and elsewhere).  We know that Labour has already lost their trust, and that local campaigning has created new pockets of Liberal Democrat support, with encouraging local by-election results in recent months. Our group includes peers with local government experience in northern cities and neglected rural areas; and we are drawing on a number of reports on the social and economic conditions of England’s pockets of depression and deprivation.

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Olly Grender celebrates ban on lettings fees for private tenants

olly grenderLib Dem peer Olly Grender has welcomed the Government’s reported plans to ban lettings fees for private tenants. This move didn’t come out of thin air but as a result of tireless campaigning by the Liberal Democrats and others. Olly and Tom Brake have been pushing this in both houses of Parliament and have taken part in demonstrations. Liberal Democrat council groups up and down the country have also been campaigning on this issue.

Olly said:

Our relentless campaigning to get tenants’ letting fees banned has finally paid off and the Government has recognised this is the right thing to do. The upfront costs of renting are far too high, pushing many people into debt just to pay the fees, and stopping others from being able to move into a rented home.

“It’s no coincidence that just five days after the debate on our Renters’ Rights Bill, which urged the Government to ban these fees, they have agreed to make this important change. Now they must agree to our calls to make renting safer and more secure too.

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