Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Housing policies too ‘personal’ to feature heavily in top parties’ campaigns?

Amy Cook - Senior Consultant & Genevieve Oller - Senior Marketing Executive

As the parties prepare to go head-to-head in the 2015 General Elections, housing policy may be a means of leveraging votes, but, to what extent will their agendas actually have a noticeable impact on the housing sector? Temple attended a fantastic event organised by PRP, which asked ‘what does the General Election 2015 mean for the housing industry?’.

The opening speaker Mike Craven (Lexington Partner and former Chief Media Spokesman for the Labour Party) spent time exploring the unprecedented nature of this election due to the uncertainty of which political party may hold the majority. As the smaller parties such as UKIP and the Greens have started to gain strength in some of the traditional strongholds of the ‘big three’, precious votes which could win a majority for Labour or the Conservatives are being lost.

Due to this uncertainty there’s not likely to be bold stance on issues such as housing, on account of a reluctance to alienate any of their current supporters. Steve Akehurst, Public Affairs Officer at Shelter, suggested that housing is such a ‘personal’ issue that it can often be highly controversial. Indeed the parties policies are notably similar; Labour have set their target at 200,000 new homes in the next term, with Conservatives planning for a similar level and Liberal Democrats at 300,000. All parties also recognise the need for more affordable housing and protection of the greenbelt. However, it was concluded that housing would be more prominent in the campaigns now than it was back in 2005. Voters will be expecting the parties to set out policies that will help relieve the pressure of a market which is struggling to meet demand. In particular we could see polices that attract the votes of 20/30 year olds with young families who are unable to move out of the parental home.

Steve Akehurst also suggested that parties are unlikely to set out strong policies in the run up to the election, as these kinds of policies are unlikely to swing their campaigns. The speaker also felt that the next term in Government would not see such radical change to the planning system, such as the NPPF which is now bedding down quite well.

The uncertainty of the current political climate brought into question whether there should be an ‘Independent Committee’ set up to champion these large new housing development schemes – urban extensions; new garden cities – to ensure that there is a long-term driver towards building new homes outside of political time-scales.

Temple's Peter Cole (Principal Consultant) discusses Temple's take on what's needed from future housing policies; 

"The dichotomy that the Conservative Party is currently grappling with in terms of new housing is one that I think the UK as a whole has to wake up to. Building solely on brownfield sites is not going to solve our housing shortage and the uneasy co-existence of house building/buying incentives and greenbelt protection is only going to get more complicated. Our role as environmental planners and sustainability practitioners is to make those hard choices slightly easier for everyone to live with...."