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Tim Farron

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Building the affordable homes we need conference motion

October 3, 2014 12:09 PM

We are living in a housing crisis. House prices and rents in many places have grown beyond what ordinary people can afford. In the 1980s, the average first time buyer needed a deposit of around £3,000. Today, it's £30,000. The average age of a first time buyer is 36, and most of them need help from their parents.

Previous Governments have failed for over three decades to plan for current and future housing need. As a result, we are building less than half the homes we need each year and are facing a growing backlog of over a million.

This is about more than house prices and economic stability - it's about providing the opportunities for everybody that a home gives. We do have a choice, but unless we really want to choose increasing social inequality, homelessness and strangled job mobility, then we cannot choose to say no to homes. The real choice is not whether we build but how we build.

We need a long term plan on housing, not a quick fix. To build truly affordable, zero carbon homes, in communities that people want to live in, we need to take action on a least four fronts: land, investment, the house building sector and political leadership at all levels. Above all, we need to plan for the long term not just for the next election.

This motion includes significant additions to existing party policy and proposals in the pre manifesto which we believe will be necessary to deliver homes that ordinary people can afford, for the next generation not just the next election. The rationale behind the measures is summarised briefly below.

Policy measures

Recommendation: Within the first year of the next parliament, publish a long-term plan to set out how our house-building objectives will be met; to be overseen by a ministerial taskforce on housing, hosted by the Cabinet Office, ensuring that locally-led housing delivery is integrated into infrastructure delivery, welfare reform, rent strategy, demographic and environmental challenges and a wider growth agenda that spreads economic growth across the country.

Recommendation: Government investment to support a new generation of quality homes which are affordable even for those on low and middle incomes, including shared ownership, rent-to-buy and other intermediate tenures, where every monthly payment goes towards owning the house.

Recommendation: Creation of a new Housing Investment Bank, to simplify the allocation of public funds, create the scale needed to draw in private investment and improve access to finance for social housing providers through traditional capital grant, soft loans and equity investment, bond issues and government guarantees; as part of this, including a "challenge fund" to promote innovative solutions to the housing crisis, imbed long termism and ensure best value for the tax payer.

Recommendation: Local authorities being allowed to develop homes of a broad mix of tenures through local housing companies, outside of the Housing Revenue Account, retaining a local authority link.

Recommendation: Social landlords to be given more control over their businesses, to develop more genuinely affordable homes and enable more efficient use of their resources, by allowing greater rent flexibilities, lifting restrictions on how they value their stock and allowing them to take account of the whole cost of occupancy relating to heating costs to encourage landlords to invest to reduce heating costs and cut fuel poverty.

For further information, or to add your voice, please drop me an email at