This is the Liberal blueprint we desperately need to solve our housing crises

The preamble to the Liberal Democrat constitution states the party exists to ensure “no-one shall be enslaved by poverty”. The many housing crises we currently face are plunging millions into poverty, substandard homes and an unfair and unaffordable housing market. People suffer worse health, children don’t receive the opportunities they deserve and our economy is less productive because our housing sector is broken. Fixing the housing crisis is central to creating the more equal and fair society our party believes in. I was delighted to read the Liberal Democrat manifesto for the 2024 General Election. It offers a clear, comprehensive, and pragmatic roadmap to addressing the housing crises that have long plagued our country.

The commitment to building 380,000 new homes annually, including 150,000 social homes, is particularly significant for cities like London where in a councillor. Every day I see how the lack of good quality homes residents can afford is leading to worse health outcomes, forcing families into temporary accommodation and schools to close and leaving swathes of young people living with parents or in poor quality shared housing. The chronic shortage of genuinely affordable housing has driven up costs and poverty and made home ownership a distant dream for many. By advocating for new garden cities and community-led developments, the manifesto promises to inject much-needed diversity and sustainability into urban planning, ensuring that growth benefits all residents. Liberal Democrats should be proud to be a YIMBY (yes in my back yard) party – we need a lot more homes and a lot more variety of homes to solve the many different housing challenges we face. It’s great to see the party committing to being the party of home building – that’s the liberal approach to the housing crisis.

The manifesto’s focus on renters’ rights is another critical area. In my borough (Southwark) we have tens of thousands of social renters who are ignored by the Council and housing associations, so I’m especially delighted to see greater protections proposed for social renters. We need better enforcement of standards, quicker repairs and greater transparency and accountability. The proposed ban on no-fault evictions and the establishment of three-year tenancies as the norm will provide much-needed stability for renters. Many of our residents live in constant fear of sudden evictions, disrupting their lives and communities. Creating a national register of licensed landlords will further enhance accountability and improve living conditions across the rental sector.

Empowering local authorities, including National Park Authorities, to end the Right to Buy in their areas is a bold yet necessary step. In London, where housing demand and cost of building is exceptionally high, Right to buy has crippled our social housing provision and councils simply can’t afford to build new homes for those that are lost under right to buy. Liberal Democrat plans to give council’s the powers to decide on right to buy will help preserve our precious social housing stock for those who need it most, ensuring that affordable housing remains available for future generations.

Addressing homelessness is a key priority, and the manifesto’s commitment to end rough sleeping within the next Parliament is a compassionate and realistic goal. The immediate scrapping of the archaic Vagrancy Act brings us into the 21st century and modern understandings of homelessness and provides a humane approach to support vulnerable citizens.

Furthermore, the pledge to abolish residential leaseholds and cap ground rents is a significant victory for homeowners. This policy will dismantle exploitative practices and give people true ownership and control over their properties, fostering a fairer housing market.

This Liberal Democrat manifesto is the breath of fresh air we need in the housing sector. It represents a comprehensive and forward-thinking approach to resolving the housing crisis. Bold home building targets, enhanced renter protections, giving powers back to local councils, and compassionate approaches to homelessness offer a realistic and hopeful path forward. I hope we get lots of Liberal democrat MPs elected so we can get this manifesto enacted!

* Cllr Victor Chamberlain is a Liberal Democrat member of the Local Infrastructure and Net Zero Board at the LGA and is the Leader of the Opposition on Southwark Council.

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6 Comments

  • Excellently put!

  • “Creating a national register of licensed landlords” – I understand the intention, but this sounds frighteningly authoritarian and straight out of the old Labour playbook. Nor am I a fan of the rent-control-in-disguise three year tenancy, nor the ban on no-fault evictions, but I am also pragmatic enough to realize that our party is erring more on the D than the L side of late.

    I agree that we should be proudly YIMBY, however. Increasing supply will, all things being equal, lower prices, which is a necessary step in the long road to demonetizing real estate and cognitively reclassifying it as a consumable utility, not an investment.

  • Re-a lot more variety. Often the blockage to building a variety of houses to meet diverse needs is an unholy alliance of developers and Labour councils – and their planning committees. Often the latter cannot see beyond increased council tax revenue (understandable given the vicious attacks on local government over the past decade but ultimately irresponsible).

  • Ron Tindall 12th Jun '24 - 8:20am

    Spot on Victor. The Thatcher heritage of gerrymandering has come home to roost with a vengence. I am pleased the LibDem flag is continuing to fly high in Southwark.

  • Peter Hirst 15th Jun '24 - 1:41pm

    There should be more equity between home ownership and the rental sector. Homes should be a place to live, not an investment opportunity. It should be easier to move homes in each sector so adapting to new circumstances and reduce commuting becomes simpler.

  • Jenny Barnes 15th Jun '24 - 4:16pm

    More houses could be built if it were possible for councils to purchase potential building land at its current non- permitted valuation, and then award themselves planning permission to build. This avoids the existing landowner getting a completely unearned bung effectively from the eventual renter or purchaser, Non permitted land in the south east varies between 9 and 22 £k/acre. At 12 houses per acre that gives a land cost of under £2k per house. With pp, that same acre might cost £M1, costing 83 £k per house.

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