Are the party manifestos addressing the real issues?
The UK has seen some of the highest levels of owner occupation in the world, though rates have declined from 71% in 2003 to around 65% in 2014. But the increase in owner occupation has been accompanied by large falls in local authority house building and decades of under-investment in social housing. Added to this are problems of developers and foreign owners sitting on empty homes and vacant land. In 2014, London’s Evening Standard covered the story of central London’s 740 uninhabited “ghost mansions” – owned by offshore investors and worth up to £3billion. Meanwhile, Department for Communities and Local Government statistics indicate that the numbers sleeping rough in Greater London have increased by 78% between 2010 and 2014, with numbers sleeping rough in England as a whole increasing by 55% over the same period. Government statistics also show that the number of households on local authorities’ waiting lists increased by around 34% between 1997 and 2014.
With the launch of the party manifestos, debates have shifted away from personalities and towards some concrete public policy issues, including what to do about the UK’s housing crisis. The Conservative manifesto has outlined some policy solutions, reflecting two imperatives – one economic, the other political. The first is to provide good quality shelter for everyone and increasing the supply of housing, especially affordable housing, is an essential ingredient for this. (more…)