Lib Dem housing proposals unveiled

by Stephen Tall on February 20, 2009

There was no escaping Lib Dem shadow housing minister Sarah Teather yesterday [not that you’d want to escape her, obviously – Ed] … not only did she put in a sparkling performance on BBC1’s Question Time, but, more importantly, she launched the party’s new plans to ‘rebuild social housing and rescue the construction industry’ (full details at the party website here). Which, ahem, LDV managed not to cover yesterday 😳 – fortunately, though, the proposals did earn plenty of coverage in the media:

BBC: Lib Dems unveil housing proposals – The Liberal Democrats have unveiled plans to boost the number of low cost homes and reduce repossessions. They say government efforts to do so have had little effect and suspending stamp duty on homes worth below £175,000 was a “waste of money”. They say more empty properties need to be used and firms with empty commercial properties should get incentives to let them out as temporary homes. … 

Launching their plans earlier, the Lib Dems said they would also introduce a “repair and renewal loan scheme” for people who own empty properties which they are prepared to lease for five years to housing associations. The party said the scheme would cost £400m over two years and would be paid for by scrapping Homebuy Direct, a scheme set up by the government to help first-time buyers on to the housing ladder. That would also allow commercial properties being used for housing, to claim commercial property rate relief – also funded by scrapping Homebuy Direct. The party believes young people – rather than families – would be prepared to live in empty commercial property for short periods of time at low rents.

The Times: Lib Dems propose Government-backed starter home loans – The Liberal Democrats have called for the introduction of basic mortgages secured by the Government to protect borrowers from the collapse in lending by banks and building societies. Safestart mortgages would be fixed for five years at a suggested interest rate of around 4.5 per cent and would be available to borrowers with a 15 per cent deposit. There would not be any fees attached to the deal. 

Sarah Teather, Liberal Democrat Housing spokeswoman, and Vince Cable, Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman, introduced the proposal at the launch of a plan to boost social housing and protect the construction industry. Vince Cable said: “It is critical, not only for those who may lose their homes but also for the wider economy, that we have a comprehensive plan to ensure that repossession is only ever a last resort. In the future, people must have access to low risk, simple mortgages which ensure that those who have sensible deposits are protected from negative equity.”

The Guardian: Old Woolworths shops could be used to house homeless under Lib Dem plans – The newly empty high street shops of Woolworths and Whittard could be redeployed as housing under new Lib Dem plans to solve the growing problem of the “hidden homeless”. In proposed changes to the UK’s housing market unveiled by the party this morning, the Lib Dems set out plans to help landlords rent out empty stores to those who satisfy government definitions of homelessness but are unable to get on either the private housing or social housing ladder. … 

Sarah Teather, the Lib Dem housing spokeswoman, said: “Communities like these plans because it houses local people and property owners like them because the properties are not falling into disrepair.”

Henry Oliver of the Empty Homes Agency endorsed the plan, explaining that a “property guardian” kept a close eye on the both the standard of the property and the tenant and ensured that tenants who were moved on once the property was ready for further commercial use were rehoused. He said: “It ends up being a peculiar kind of security of tenure.”