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Lib Dems pledge to carry out Renters Reform Bill

The Liberal Democrats are pledging to ban Section 21 evictions, make three year tenancies the default, and create a national register of licensed landlords – meaning the party would largely carry out the lost Renters (Reform) Bill.

It would also insist on an even more ambitious target of building 380,000 homes a year, up from the Labour target of 300,000, while this number would include 150,000 social homes a year, as well as new garden cities, and a community-led development of cities and towns.

The party would give local authorities the powers to end Right to Buy, a policy blamed on the UK’s shrinking supply of council housing, while it would abolish residential leaseholds and cap ground rents to a nominal fee.

It would also look to end rough sleeping within the next parliament, as well as scrap the Vagrancy Act, which it labelled ‘archaic’.

Aidan Van de Weyer, senior planner at planning firm Lanpro Services, said: “From a planning perspective, the top lines in the Lib Dem manifesto are really positive. The delivery target of 380,000 homes year is welcome – but ambitious. As we know from recent experience, meeting housing targets is always controversial. The greater the housing target, the greater the controversy.

“The Lib Dem manifesto says that this can be achieved through community-led initiatives and the creation of ten new garden cities – as Labour has done. So it will be interesting to see in what respect the Lib Dems plan to achieve this differently to Labour.

“The Lib Dems have come up with a concrete proposal for solving the resourcing problems of local authorities: allow councils to set their own fees for planning applications. The impact of this will vary depending on how much freedom is given to councils.

“But with substantial freedoms allowed, this risks creating a two-tier planning service: wealthy, attractive areas get well-resourced planning teams, while quality in less affluent areas drops as councils compete to bring in development – perpetuating the rich/poor divide which already impacts far too much in our planning system.

“The Lib Dems, again like Labour, have stated their support for allowing councils to be given compulsory purchase powers at existing use values for housing, along the lines of the as-yet unimplemented measures in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act (LURA). Although each of the three main parties seems intent on pursuing this policy, without very clear rules and processes, this will introduce risks of challenge and delay that could make the powers difficult to use in practice.”

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “In every part of this country the housing emergency is ruining lives, so we’re pleased to see a commitment to tackling the crisis and building social homes in the Liberal Democrat’s manifesto.

“Successive government failure to build genuinely affordable social homes has resulted in rocketing rents, rising evictions and record homelessness. In the last decade alone, we’ve lost more than a quarter of a million social homes, so we welcome the Liberal Democrat’s ambition to build 150,000 a year. Building social homes with rents tied to local incomes is the only way to solve homelessness. But we also need robust reform for private renting to make it secure and affordable.

“Decisive action to address the housing emergency is long overdue. All political parties should commit to building genuinely affordable social homes – we need at least 90,000 a year for ten years to clear waiting lists and eradicate homelessness.”

Nathan Emerson, chief executive at Propertymark, said: “It is encouraging to see housebuilding targets being taken seriously within the first manifesto released, especially a realisation that more social homes are required so that people have access to a greater provision of housing.

“Propertymark has always believed that ground rents should be capped, so it is good to see that similar proposals are being referenced in the Liberal Democrats’ manifesto. It will be interesting to see what mechanism they intend to use should they succeed in ending no-fault evictions.”

Michael Cook, chief executive officer, Leaders Romans Group, seems less enamoured by the manifesto.

He said: “While the Liberal Democrats’ manifesto aims for a fair deal across various sectors, it unfortunately falls short of addressing the housing crisis comprehensively.

“The solitary focus on renters’ rights, essentially a phoenix of the unpassed Renters (Reform) Bill with a twist of mandating three-year tenancies, misses a significant opportunity. More robust and diverse housing policies are crucial to genuinely tackle the pressing issues faced by millions in need of affordable and secure housing.”

Courts, Europe and bank taxes

Outside of housing, the Lib Dem manifesto includes speeding up the court process, rejoining the single market and introducing a bank tax.

The Lib Dems would increase court funding, set targets and introduce reforms, making sure they are sufficiently staffed. Landlords have recently found the court system to be frustratingly slow in situations where they need to evict tenants with a Section 8.

The party has pledged to seek to rejoin the single market, with a long-term objective of rejoining the European Union, making it the only party looking to appeal to those disappointed in the UK’s departure from the EU.

The Lib Dems pledged to place a levy on banks, which would net an extra £4.25 billion a year, as well as crack down on tax avoidance, which it estimated at being worth £7.2 billion a year. The party would also increase capital gains tax for the wealthiest people.

This cash could be used to increase public spending, as the party pledged to spend almost £27 billion more by 2029.

A big focus of the party is on social care, as the Lib Dems promised 8,000 new GPs, as well as free-to access social care and more mental health support.

The Liberal Democrats are currently polling at 10%, putting them in fourth place, behind Labour, the Conservatives, and Reform.