Helen Morgan MP writes: It’s Liberal Democrats who build homes

Taking on the housing brief for the Liberal Democrats has been a huge privilege. One of the biggest challenges my constituents face is the lack of affordable housing; nearly a third of my casework is about unsuitable, temporary or downright dangerous housing, and my colleagues report the same. Our government lacks ambition on housing, it has repeatedly taken the easy road, failing to tackle the crisis facing millions across the country.

At the moment we’re facing a cost of living crisis making both renters and mortgage holders deeply worried about staying in their homes, a Levelling Up Bill that has been amended beyond recognition because the Government is too weak to face down its rebels, and yet another broken promise to make life better for renters by banning no-fault evictions.

I have worked hard to champion Liberal Democrat values by amending the Levelling Up Bill to review the broken Business Rates System, to ensure that new homes are built to a decent standard so bills and emissions are low, and for local authorities to be able to set tougher standards for new homes than national ones. Yet the Tories have blocked us every step of the way.

The proliferation of second homes and holiday lets is also harming holiday destinations, from London to York, and the Lake District to Cornwall. Local people are being priced out of the market and in rural areas communities are dying, local services like schools or GP surgeries are becoming unviable, and local shops and pubs are closing. Once again the Conservatives have failed to protect communities, instead protecting the right of people to buy second homes unchecked.

In my constituency, I have stood up for residents of new build properties against dodgy developers who have broken their promises. One developer didn’t build a sewage system leaving new homeowners with an extortionate bill to remedy the situation through no fault of their own. I have  repeatedly called for the end to “fleecehold”, where management companies increase fees extortionately when managing communal areas in new developments.

With all this in mind, I am delighted to be bringing forward the paper “Tackling the Housing Crisis” to this Autumn conference. This paper wants to build homes urgently, it gives significantly more powers to local authorities to build the homes we need and also to hold developers accountable when they don’t build. We will deliver smaller homes for those who want to get their first home or downsize rather than the executive mansions developers make the most profit on.

It will give local authorities binding local targets to build homes, that are independently-assessed to ensure that councils cannot avoid their responsibilities, alongside a national target for social homes – the homes we desperately need and that the government can actually build.  My constituents are desperate for new homes, particularly social homes and I’m delighted for the Liberal Democrats to be advocating for them.

Importantly we will take the community with us, reducing one of the biggest barriers to new homes – NIMBYism. By expanding Neighbourhood Planning to deliver more community buy-in, and ensuring that new developments are built with the infrastructure that is needed to go alongside it, our communities will at least feel part of the discussions rather than an afterthought.We will deliver a fair deal for renters too, ending no-fault evictions and ensuring longer-term tenancies are the default. We will finally abolish leasehold, the feudal system that simply has no place in this day and age.

In the face of a cost of living crisis we will ensure that homes are built to zero-carbon standards, cutting bills and emissions, and will undertake a ten-year emergency programme to retrofit our homes to end fuel poverty.

If the housing brief has taught me anything, it is that we desperately need more homes for people, the homes people need in the communities they want to live in. The Tories are happy to sit back and do nothing, but it is Liberal Democrats who build homes and this paper will allow us to keep doing so.


* Helen Morgan is Liberal Democrat MP for North Shropshire

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  • Steve Trevethan 7th Sep '23 - 7:12am

    Might it help if bank rates were totally or partially paid into the public purse instead of being paid to banks?

    Where is the verification that the recent/current bank rates comprise an efficient inflation management tool?

  • Brian Evans 7th Sep '23 - 8:47am

    A ‘Government too weak to face down its rebels’ caused untold damage to this country in June 2016 that will take years to fix – if at all. My hope is that, some time next year, we can achieve sufficient seats to complement a Labour-led, minority government to ensure that we never have such a weak government ever again by reforming the electoral system.

  • Steve Trevethan 7th Sep ’23 – 7:12am
    Where is the verification that the recent/current bank rates comprise an efficient inflation management tool?

    Money supply growth has fallen to zero…

    ‘Is printing too much money the real cause of inflation?’ [September 2023]:

    Changes in the supply of money are key to understanding what has happened to inflation – and where it might be heading.

    Here the recent news is mostly good – on inflation at least. The latest figures […] show that the annual growth of the Bank’s preferred measure of broad money […] has slowed to zero – so no more extra money is circulating in the economy. This should drag inflation down further over time.

    To illustrate this, here is a simple chart comparing the growth rate of broad money and the annual rate of inflation. The former appears to lead the latter, with a lag of about 18 months.

  • Peter Martin 7th Sep '23 - 1:47pm

    “Where is the verification that the recent/current bank rates comprise an efficient inflation management tool”

    There isn’t any. Its just a transfer on money from those paying interest to those who are being paid interest. Those being paid interest, including banks, are less likely to buy houses with their extra money. That’s all. So to the extent that an increase in interest rates works to reduce house prices, it doesn’t work the way it is claimed to work.

    It also doesn’t work to reduce anyone’s rent. These have skyrocketed as interest rates have been increased. . This can be traced to the BoE’s rate hikes which have pushed up the cost of investment loans, which landlords have then passed on to their tenants. This gets added to the CPI. The BoE then responds to an increased CPI by hiking rates higher still! Interest rate hikes are thus adding to inflation, not the other way around, as anyone who is paying more in housing costs will likely have noticed.

    This is doom-loop economics. It cannot possibly end well.

  • Policy Paper 155 “Tackling the Housing Crisis” is an important paper with its focus on the necessity of building more council homes. The Big issue has a good piece Rents in the UK are rising at the highest rate for decades. Will they keep going up?
    that highlights the relationship between rising house prices and rent inflation.
    “A landlord exodus could see rents rise despite cost-of-living pressures, particularly as some first-time buyers may no longer be able to afford to stop renting as rising interest rates mean a mortgage is unaffordable.
    However, Zoopla found a “steady, constant flow” of private landlords selling up but there were no signs of an acceleration since 2018.
    Meanwhile, there has been continued new investment in rented homes which means Zoopla has not seen an overall change in the number of privately rented homes since 2016.”
    There is a means of curbing the use of residential housing as just another category of speculative investment as opposed to the basic necessity of shelter and at the same time providing much needed support to both tenants and mortgage borrowers facing financial distress as discussed in these two briefing papers The Problem of Rents and Inflation, mortgages and rents

  • It is unfortunate that the Lib Dems in the Lords voted against restoring housing targets.

  • *Abstained rather

  • Steve Trevethan 7th Sep '23 - 10:11pm

    A tip of the hat to Peter Martin!

    « The Spectator is politically conservative. »

  • Michael Hall 8th Sep '23 - 8:29am

    As people reading this are interested in the motion on the Housing Crisis, perhaps some of you have carefully read through to the end the policy paper 155, which I referred to in my article published here on 1 September
    I would be interested to know if anyone understands why paragraph 11.6.6 says that we would “automatically extend leaseholds of commercial or mixed use property to 999 years at a peppercorn ground rent”. I have written to Mark Pack and also to Cllr Peter Thornton who chaired the working group, but neither of them have answered this query and I have yet to receive a reply from Peter Thornton. Commercial property is not what this policy paper was supposed to be about. This would involve an amendment to the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 so that instead of getting a new lease for the same term as the expired lease, at a market rent, a shopkeeper for example would be made into a millionaire overnight by effectively getting the freehold of the property completely free of charge. Is this a sensible policy do you think?

  • Michael Hall 8th Sep '23 - 9:19am

    As I mentioned in my article published on 1 September I am concerned about the proposal to abolish residential leasehold, mentioned in lines 82-84 of the motion, as this would be unfair to leaseholders, whose lease gives them their entitlement to ownership of their home. Commonhold is not a tried and tested alternative, and should not be imposed on leaseholders. I have called for a separate vote on these three lines. Also I believe paragraph 11.6.6 of the policy paper about commercial property leases being automatically extended to 999 years, must have been a mistake and it should be excluded from the endorsement of the policy paper by way of a drafting amendment. Does anyone think it is sensible, and if so please let me know why.

  • Helen Dudden 8th Sep '23 - 11:11am

    I feel it’s time for some house keeping.

    I had bid on a property locally, brand new and affordable rent. I needed £800 as the first months rent although my rent is guaranteed by the guaranteed pension credit. Very beautiful new build, accessible. I couldn’t afford it.
    As local authorities struggle on many in a dire state.

    Do you agree with me? We need more thought on the end result.
    I spend £70 per week of my Motobility payment on a Power Wheelchair. Children have to pay too, nothing is free on the NHS and perhaps that should be the correct thought. I use a form of CBD oil costing £40 for pain relief every two weeks. I can’t use opiates because of a medical condition. Anti inflammatory is not on the list either. Not on the NHS.
    I was told by someone I get a lot of money. I pay for my own orthopaedic shoes. Taking as little as possible from the NHS.
    There is not a continuous flow of funds into my bank. I balanced my books and stopped.
    So still in my unaccessible home but in control of spending.

  • Helen is, or course, quite right to say that the key to all this is building more houses, both social and for private sale, even if it upsets those of a nimbyish disposition.
    Althouh it plays well with the public, I am not convinced that we can or should do much more to stop second home owners or those wishing to own holiday lets. Apart from the obvious point that the tourist business in many places depends on these holiday lets, we should remember that second home owners are already subject to higher stamp duty and (potentially) higher council tax.
    Ed Davey, in his excellent interview with Alaistair and Rory (Rest is Politics 4/9/23) said he was a liberal democrat (rather than in labour) because he was worried about the power of the state. “Where do you draw the line with the state telling people what to do… ?”. I struggle with this daily !

  • Whether higher interest rates are effective in curbing inflation is discussed in this article The latest Bank of England rate rise won’t do much to tackle inflation
    The empirical evidence was discussed by Professor Richard Werner in a submission to Parliament in 2017 evidence submitted by Professor Richard Werner
    “Careful and detailed empirical research has demonstrated that both short-term and long-term interest rates follow nominal GDP growth, and are positively correlated. This means that instead of the postulated negative correlation (lower rates being associated with higher growth and vice versa), higher growth and higher rates are associated. Moreover, tests of statistical causality and timing demonstrate that interest rates follow economic growth, they do not lead, and they cannot be said to cause or influence economic growth. Thus it is not surprising that traditional interest rate policy has been ineffective.”
    On the “Tackling the Housing Crisis” policy paper. ALTER will submit proposed amendments as follows:
    – Successive government have pursued policies to benefit homeowners, landowners and major home builders, without considering the impact on those without property.
    – Failure to review the grossly unfair Council Tax in England despite it being the main source of local and regional inequality in housing costs
    – There are significant regional and local variations in land and housing problems and prices … FPC to commission a review of all residential property taxes that affect land and housing markets.

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