A number of young renters will be offered ‘rent to buy’ deposit-free homes as part of plans being proposed by the Liberal Democrats aimed at attracting a younger generation to support the party.
The party has had issues with regaining the trust of the younger generation after it voted through an increase in tuition fees during the coalition years, but the leader of the Liberal Democrats, Vince Cable, views the housing crisis as an opportunity to gain fresh political support.
In a speech at the Royal Institute of British Architects in London yesterday, Cable proposed a major expansion in rent-to-own, where some people in new developments could pay a market rent in exchange for a gradual stake in the property, thereby subsidising social rents.
The speech, which came in response to the housing crisis comes as the government announced £1.67bn in funding for 23,000 affordable homes across England, including 15,000 for social rent, was followed up with an email from the Liberal Democrat leader to party members, in which he said that successive governments have not only failed to tackle the housing, but have made it worse.
“Tackling this problem won’t be easy, but if we’re to build a society that is fair, free and open, it’s a problem we must tackle,” he wrote.
Cable has set out what he described as a “radical plan to tackle the housing crisis”.
This includes a programme of large-scale affordable housing, raising quality, safety and environmental standards in existing residential properties, and strengthening the sanctions for leaving homes empty, with fiscal measures to incentivise domestic use, including increasing the 200% council tax on homes deliberately left empty to 500%.
In addition, he wants to see a big expansion in ‘rent to own’, in which housing associations would build properties for occupiers to pay a market-level rent. The additional margin would yield the occupier an increasing stake in the property over time. Variants of this model are already in use in Liberal Democrat controlled local authorities like Eastleigh.
The party also wants to see the introduction of a new, arms-length body that will be empowered by law to acquire land of low amenity and market value through compulsory acquisition and build houses available for five-year rentals which could be converted into freehold acquisitions with a mortgage.
Cable also wants to see more done to clamp down on rogue landlords, including ending what he described as “exploitative, greedy, negligent or neglectful practices in the private sector, which give the majority of good landlords a bad name”.
Measures include a publicly available database of rogue landlords; capping upfront deposit and banning letting agencies’ fees for tenants.