As the 2019 general election campaign continues to heat up, the Labour Party has unveiled its manifesto, pledging to overhaul the housing market by creating a Department of Housing, as well as revealing a number of other policies, to tackle what it perceives to be imbalances within the housing market.
The launch came during a week in which Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn went head-to-head with Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the first televised election debate of the campaign.
The Conservatives continue to have a poll lead over Labour of 12.8 percentage points, according to polling aggregator Britain Elects, suggesting that Mr Johnson remains on-course for victory in December.
New department proposed
One of the key takeaways from Labour’s 2019 manifesto was the proposal to establish an entirely new department dedicated specifically to housing. This is in contrast to the current set-up in government, where housing is included as part of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
The manifesto added that Housing England, a non-departmental body responsible for funding new affordable homes in England, would be made more accountable, and that local councils would be given greater influence.
These measures would be pursued to help deliver a flourishing construction sector, with a skilled workforce and full rights at work, Labour claimed.
Funding on new affordable homes had been slashed since 2010 by the Conservatives, the manifesto pronounced. In response, Labour would seek to ensure the creation of at least 150,000 new council and social homes by the end of the next Parliament, sometime in 2024.
At least 100,000 of these new homes would be built by councils for social rent, as part of Labour’s ambitious proposal to deliver the largest council housebuilding programme in more than a generation.
Section 21 proposed to be axed
Despite disagreeing with the Conservatives on a number of policies, Labour’s manifesto agreed with the current government’s proposal earlier this year, for Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 to be scrapped.
Section 21 has been used by landlords as a means to seek possession of properties through so-called ‘no-fault’ evictions, but all three main parties now firmly support measures to scrap it altogether.
A Labour Party spokesperson told Property Notify: “We’re planning for first Queen’s Speech, year-one legislation to do this”, suggesting that an incoming Labour government would waste no time in removing Section 21.
The manifesto explained the reason for this policy, saying: “We will give renters the security they need, to make their rented housing a home, with new open-ended tenancies to stop unfair ‘no-fault’ evictions.”
Scrapping Section 21 would be accompanied by ensuring that rented properties meet a new guideline of minimum standards for homes, enforced through nationwide licensing. Landlords who fail to meet these standards would expect to face tough sanctions.
Property Notify approached the Conservatives for an update on proposals to scrap Section 21, but is yet to receive a response.