As can be expected during election campaigns, ambitious manifesto pledges are the order of the day. Many of the promises being made, while admirable, take for granted what is arguably the most pressing social concern in Britain today. Housing.
Given soaring house prices, home ownership has become an unaffordable dream for many. The problem is particularly acute in the South East, where cities like London is growing by about 100,000 annually. The rise of 'Generation Rent' represents a trend that suggests renters could outnumber homeowners in 104 out of 650 constituencies by 2021. In the current climate of sky-high prices, this puts those who rent in compromising circumstances. Families and young people are among the worst affected. Under the current system of yearlong contracts, many families may be just months away from being priced out of their homes. The situation is bleaker still for young people, as they are unable to even get a footing on the property ladder. If they are able to rent, they may find themselves stuck in a perpetual cycle of sub-standard housing and limited prospects for owning a home.
The rise of 'Generation Rent'. Creative Commons: Urban by Alexander Edward is licensed under CC BY 2.0
No party can avoid the realities of a recovering economy, but who is being asked to bear the brunt of the necessary sacrifices? Given the manifesto of the Labour Party, their answer is not society's most vulnerable. In response to what they call a 'housing crisis' the Labour Party have promised to do the following:
1. Provide more security to renters by introducing three-year tenancies.
2. Provide more predictability to renters by pegging price increases to the rate of inflation.
3. Restore the dream of home ownership by abolishing stamp duty on house purchases. This could save 90% of first-time buyers up to £5,000.
Some, however, are not too optimistic about Labour's proposals. Political prophets draw on so-called iron laws of economics to discredit Miliband's housing policy, likening rent control to a bombing raid. The key priority for each of the political parties should undoubtedly be addressing the shortage of new homes, which remains the central issue. Long-term housing reform will depend on the success of private property developers, given that they supply the majority of new homes. Miliband is probably aware of this. In the meanwhile, it is deceptive to suggest that Labour's plan to ease the burden on struggling families and disillusioned young people is misguided. Some may be privileged enough to take home ownership or a stable housing situation for granted. However, for a rising number of Britons, Labour's intentions provide a much-needed helping hand and the reassurance that government still works for its citizens.
For more information about the Labour Party's policies, click here.