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London guide to Conservative and Labour housing policy

By Sophia Wood-Burgess

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With less than 24 hours to go before the polls open in the 2024 General Election, all eyes are on the parties’ housing policies and pledges – and it’s not only our clients who want to know what’s going to happen next. According to Google Trends, UK searches about on Housing Policy are at a 10-year high so far in July.
So, if you’re wondering what the major parties have in store in terms of housing policy, and how these plans might affect you, we're sharing expertise from Foxtons Legal & Compliance team in this quick guide.

Jump to:

House building | Renters reform | First-time buyers | Energy efficiency | Leasehold reform | Stamp Duty

labour policy on house building

Building homes and the Green Belt

Labour Party

In an interview with the Sunday Times, Sir Keir Starmer pledged Labour would ‘hit the ground running’ on housebuilding and would make at least three major housing announcements in the first two weeks of office.

The party has promised to deliver the biggest increase in social and affordable housebuilding in a generation. They have already pledged to build 1.5 million new homes over the next five years, and we’re told to expect the announcement of a major housebuilding programme in week two.

To encourage development around already-established regions, the party will begin writing to local councils asking them to review their green belt policies. The aim is to encourage development of brownfield sites and lower quality green belt land – something the party calls the ‘grey belt’ (former industrial sites and car parks).

It’s not only established regions that are the focus of change, as was outlined last month by shadow levelling up secretary Angela Rayner at the UKREiiF real estate and infrastructure conference. The party’s manifesto also contains a pledge to build a generation of new towns to provide what it calls a series of large-scale new communities across England.

Conservative Party

Declaring in the Conservative Manifesto that it has delivered 2.5 million homes since 2010, the party promises to deliver a further 1.6 million homes over the next five years. Their plans too, focus on brownfield land, as well as abolishing the legacy EU ‘nutrient neutrality’ rules, which delay housing projects.

In contast to Labour’s approach, the Conservative Manifesto confirmed they would retain the party’s ‘cast-iron commitment to protect the green belt’ by focussing on building in inner cities ‘raising the density levels in inner London to those of European cities like Paris and Barcelona’.

They would achieve this by focussing on development on brownfield sites in urban areas, fast-tracking the planning system for new homes in the 20 largest cities and supporting local and smaller builders by requiring councils to set aside land for them, removing burdens on smaller developers to carry out extra works in exchange for securing planning permission.

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renters reform policy

Renters Reform

In both the Labour and Conservative party manifestos, there are plans to re-introduce legislation on Renters Reform, which failed to become law under the last parliament.

The Conservatives propose a temporary measure so that landlords selling the property to their tenants would pay no Capital Gains tax.

Foxtons Director - Legal & Compliance, Manjit Kataora reviewed both the Labour and Conservative manifestos in a recent article, and summed things up by saying, 'Whoever wins will have the benefit of an advanced draft set of reforms with the added advantage of being able to see where the difficulties lay in trying to get it through. We can probably expect a familiar looking draft bill once it emerges but with the party conference season looming during the summer, it remains to seen how quickly this will happen and how the practical issues and difficulties identified in the bill will be addressed.'

The speed at which we can expect reforms to be passed will partly depend on the size of any majority in the House of Commons once the seats have been counted. A party that romps home with a huge majority will find it considerably easier to get new laws passed more quickly.

Read the full story here: What party manifestos say about Renters Reform

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labour policy on first-time buyers

First-time buyers

Both parties have committed to a permanent form of the mortgage guarantee scheme to help first-time buyers with low deposits. Labour’s Freedom to Buy Scheme, would make the mortgage guarantee scheme permanent, and see lenders offer mortgages with a 5% deposit, with the government acting as guarantor for part of the loan. This would increase lenders’ appetite to provide low-deposit mortgages to first-time buyers. The party would also give first-time buyers the chance to buy homes in new developments before investors.

The Tories would enact a new Help to Buy equity loan scheme for first-time buyers to buy new-build homes, similar to previous Help to Buy schemes. It would be worth up to 20% of the property’s value with a 5% deposit.

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energy efficiency labour housing policy

Energy efficiency

Labour has pledged to invest an extra £6.6bn as part of its Warm Homes Plan to upgrade five million homes, which is scaled back from the original pledge to upgrade every home that needs it to EPC rating C. They promise to ensure private rented sector homes meet a minimum energy efficiency standard by 2030, to help make renting more affordable. While the route for landlords to affordably raise energy ratings in their property is unclear, the party promises ‘nobody will be forced to rip out their boiler as a result of our plans.’

The Tories say they would fund an energy efficiency voucher scheme for homes in England to support insulation and solar panel installations. In their manifesto, they pledged to reduce household energy bills and retain the energy price cap. Despite scrapping the plan for all privately rented homes meet the EPC rating C by 2028, the Conservative Manifesto pledges ‘we will invest £6 billion in energy efficiency over the next three years to make around a million homes warmer.’

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leasehold reform policy

Leasehold reform

The Conservatives pushed through a Leasehold Reform bill in the wash-up period before Parliament was dissolved. Labour have pledged to take reform further with a Leasehold ban, 'finally bring the feudal leasehold system to an end,' however its previous pledge to introduce this ban in the first 100 days was not mentioned in the manifesto.

See the latest legislation on Leasehold Reform in: ‘Wash up’ round up: Leasehold Reform and Renters Reform

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stamp duty policy

Stamp duty

The stamp duty threshold was raised temporarily in 2022, from £300,000 to £425,000, and is due to revert in March 2025. Labour would not commit to extending it, while Conservatives would make it permanent, easing pressure for (particularly in London) first-time buyers and more widely across the nation, second-steppers.

Learn more about temporary measure in our article: What the Stamp Duty Tax Cut means for you.

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What tomorrow brings...

There have been a lot of promises when it comes to housing policy. Whatever a new government brings, Foxtons is here to help you navigate the London property market. We'll continue to monitor all housing policies, and ensure our clients have all the information they need to achieve their property goals. So get started with us and we'll help you plan your next move:

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How does a general election affect the London house market?

As far as elections go, the London property market is resilient. Industry research reveals the election announcement did not put buyers and sellers off their plans in the housing market. In fact, our own analysis found that the majority of UK General Elections in the last 30 years took place during a growing house market, which continued to grow post-election.

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