Two weeks today, the general election will be done if not dusted.
It is hard not to be distracted by the unedifying battle between the two main parties over claims of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party and Islamophobia in the Conservative Party.
But distract ourselves we must, because while the party manifestos are full of the usual empty promises, back-of-envelope maths and downright lies, one of them will emerge as the blueprint for the next government’s policies – and even if only some of the pledges are honoured, they could have serious and long-lasting ramifications for the industry.
A Labour victory would obviously signal the most significant changes to current government policy. Its promise of 150,000 new affordable homes – 100,000 council and 50,000 housing association – is music to the ears of those who think a major social housing push is the only way to solve the housing crisis and that the Tories are too fixated on home ownership. How Labour plans to raise the £75bn it reckons it needs is anyone’s guess, but it will probably play well with voters. Good luck trying to link affordability to income in London, though. That ship sailed long ago.
Equally predictable, but less pie in the sky, are Labour’s plans to end permitted development rights (PDR) and introduce rent controls preventing landlords from increasing rents above inflation. Getting rid of PDR would probably be no bad thing given the damage it has done to the industry’s reputation. People also seem to be sanguine about the prospect of rent controls. But such initiatives are far more hardline and anti-property than the industry has become accustomed to and would be just the thin end of the wedge.
That said, if people are hoping the Tories get back in, it may be a case of ‘be careful what you wish for’. While the Tories are largely promising more of the same, in their desperation to win over first-time buyers, they have pledged to introduce a new long-term fixed-rate mortgage that only requires a 5% deposit. Remember what happened last time people could get mortgages on a 95% LTV or higher? What next? A big push on interest-only mortgages? I’d be interested to hear what the Bank of England thinks.
Less controversially, the Lib Dems, like Labour, have pledged to scrap PDR and deliver more social housing. They have also mooted a Help to Rent scheme aimed at the under-30s and unveiled ambitious plans to introduce a requirement for all new homes to meet a zero-carbon standard by 2021, something Labour also committed to without giving a deadline.
The big question is whether voters will be swayed by any of the parties’ grandiose statements of intent in what remains, let’s not delude ourselves otherwise, a single-issue election.
Student Accommodation 2019
Both Labour and the Conservatives allude to the Grenfell tragedy in their manifestos, Labour promising to introduce a £1bn Fire Safety Fund. The issue of cladding was raised again by the recent fire at Bolton student accommodation scheme The Cube. It will also be a big talking point at the Student Accommodation Conference & Awards, which take place at the InterContinental London – The 02 on 11 December. This year’s event is set to be the biggest yet, so don’t miss out. Go to student.propertyweek.com and book your ticket now.