At our spring conference, the Green Party adopted a completely new set of housing and planning policies. These set out our big vision, and provide our politicians and manifesto authors with a starting point.
I’ve picked out five that I particularly like.
That house costs how much?
We all know that house prices are far too high in most of the country, but governments have repeatedly encouraged them to rise even further!
We now explicitly state that we want to stabilise house prices and rents “so that there is no further real terms growth in housing costs”.
For places like London where prices are absurdly high, we go even further: “in the least affordable markets we would seek to effect a gradual and managed real-terms decline in house prices until average prices are below four times average incomes”.
It leads us to pledge to “introduce a new duty for the Bank of England to constrain house price growth through its monetary and financial policy levers, rather than allowing finance to push up prices as has happened in recent decades through policies such as quantitative easing and cheap credit, aiming for house price stability while balancing this with other objectives”.
Build, build, build! Forget the rest!
We all know the causes of high prices are complicated, but somehow that always gets reduced to “build more houses!”
We now set out a range of other policies to complement new housing, including land value taxation, detering speculation, abolishing generous tax breaks for landlords’ mortgages, banning non-resident non-citizens from buying property, taxes and controls on empty homes and second homes, scrapping counterproductive policies like Help to Buy, reducing pressure on the south east with stronger regional economic policy, and the aforementioned duty on the Bank of England.
Stop knocking it all down
Council estate demolitions are a big issue all around the country, and have been a big feature of my work in London.
We now set out some rigorous protections for residents, ensuring that homes and estates are only knocked down when it really is the best option. Four key measures are:
- a study covering the social, economic and environmental impacts of demolition and refurbishment should first be undertaken, with reference to the local energy plan and housing standards.
- wherever possible, the evidence should be co-produced with residents. Landlords should produce a Statement of Community Involvement, and be able to demonstrate how it was followed through.
- tenants and residents will be supported to produce their own report on the community engagement undertaken by the landlord.
- where demolition is the preferred option of the provider, residents would be given a right to an indicative ballot.
Renters, vive l’Europe!
Renting privately in England is rubbish. It’s often worse than that. Our policy would now bring England up to the mainstream standards enjoyed in the rest of Europe, including:
- secure tenancies, and an end to the power for landlords to evict you for no good reason
- rent controls, aiming for a ‘living rent’ which would be genuinely affordable
- new local boards to help renters and landlords quickly resolve problems
- an end to letting agent fees
Roll up your sleeves, councillor
Back to building homes, the new Green policy introduces lots of big changes to the planning system, land ownership and the construction sector to try and get more homes of the right type built (or refurbished).
One of my favourites is the move towards a system of planning more similar to the Netherlands or Austria.
At the moment, councils spend years drafting enormously complicated local plans, setting out lots of rules and guidance on what to build. Then developers spend months trying to wriggle out of them. Then residents, who played no meaningful part, campaign to stop anything being built because the plans are crap.
There’s no magic solution to this. But we would change the role that councils play to try and unblock things, and provide more genuine local community involvement.
Under the new Green policy, councils would buy up, plan out and prepare land for development. Then they’d sell the plots to builders with some quite simple parameters, such as design and energy standards. That means less red tape and more certainty for anyone applying to get anything built, and more democratic control over the big issues.
- ensure the most suitable land is built on, rather than the cheapest or easiest.
- plan new urban extensions with genuinely sustainable layouts, with streets designed for walking, cycling and public transport, local energy networks, and so on.
- sell more plots to self-builders, community-led groups, co-operatives, small housing associations and small builders, helping to diversify our market