HO101 Affordable secure accommodation is a basic human need. Those without accommodation and those forced through lack of choice into inadequate or unaffordable housing may lead diminished lives and can be socially excluded, unable to participate fully in the life of the community.
HO102 The inadequate and inequitable provision of housing in this country today is the result of inequalities in access to resources, particularly land, the inability of the free market to meet diverse housing needs and a lack of investment in public housing spanning over two decades. To eradicate these inequalities it is essential to bring housing policies under local participatory democratic control.
HO103 The Green Party seeks a balanced mix of housing tenures, to meet the diverse needs of the community. These include individual and shared home ownership, leasehold, and others. Disincentives to the speculative ownership of housing will be introduced, including higher rates of Council Tax for unoccupied properties and second homes. People must not be forced into home ownership because there is no alternative. The Green Party seeks to increase the amount of social housing and commonly owned housing as representing the best way of ensuring an availability of affordable housing.
HO104 Commonly owned and social housing includes: housing owned and/or managed by local authorities, housing provided by or managed by housing associations primarily funded by the Housing Corporations, and co-operative and CoHousing projects. The emphasis must be on local provision for local needs, more decentralised forms of housing management, and the empowerment of tenants.
HO105 Housing associations are potentially effective providers of housing to rent. However, in their present forms they are deeply flawed. In particular in financial decisions which affect rent increases they are answerable to private investors. They must be democratised, with a fundamental shift of power in favour of tenants and increased accountability to the local community, aided by reduction in size.
HO106 Housing Co-ops should be encouraged as effective providers of low cost housing with good participation by tenants. Some housing co-op principles would be well taken on board by local authorities and housing associations. However a true housing co-operative is co-operatively owned not just co-operatively managed and is in a position to use any assets to support the development of more co-operatives.
HO107 The private rented sector has a role in meeting housing need, particularly in areas with prohibitively high house prices, for those unable or unwilling to borrow money, for people on low incomes who do not qualify for socially provided housing and for short term accommodation. This sector needs to have rents controlled and tenants provided with additional legal protection.
HO108 The increase in homelessness is partly the result of ineffective housing policy and lack of investment in housing over the last twenty years. Policies are urgently needed to change the homelessness legislation, to maximise the use of empty property, and to increase the security of anyone occupying a property as their home. Reform of the housing benefit system would ensure that late payments cannot cause homelessness and stop landlords discriminating against those on benefit.
HO109 National government has considerable powers to alleviate the housing crisis. However, many of the policies required are more suited to implementation locally, enabled and assisted by national government.
HO110 The Green Party supports the introduction of the mortgage bond system used in Germany, Sweden and Denmark but currently unavailable in the UK. This longer-term funding source would have fixed rates of interest and would be tightly regulated to control risks.
HO301 The Green Party recognises a universal human right to shelter, including boats, vans, caravans and housing which is secure, has basic facilities and is affordable. The existence of homelessness is unacceptable in a civilised society. For housing to be genuinely affordable, it must be possible for all sectors of society to access housing without having to borrow unfeasibly large sums of money, which can often lead to individuals being tied into socially or ecologically destructive work; housing for rent with a regulated rent would be considered to meet this definition, with shared ownership housing being affordable only to those who can obtain a mortgage.
HO302 This universal right to housing cannot be met by uniform provision. People's housing needs vary according to their circumstances and throughout life. The needs of particular groups must be addressed specifically. (see HO1001 onwards)
HO303 Research will be undertaken to identify innovative, alternative and preferred forms of living. Steps will be taken, through reform of building regulations, planning policies and criteria for Housing Corporation type funding for social housing to ensure that innovative ecological housing becomes the standard for all, not just a few.
HO304 Housing policy should be fully integrated with other policies to build more sustainable, self-reliant communities. The provision of housing should be coordinated with developments to provide work, leisure, education and health care.
Resources for housing
HO401 Housing represents a massive investment of materials, labour, skills and land. While materials and labour are readily available for housing, the existence of land monopoly and speculation leads to empty properties, inflated prices for land and the problem that any financial assistance encourages higher prices. To address these problems the Green Party proposes Empty Property Use Orders (see HO904), increased public land/property ownership, and a Land Value Tax (see LD). Investment in buildings should benefit the whole community, not just the individuals who own them. There must also be investment in the skills required for building and refurbishing houses to a high ecological standard.
HO402: The burden of historic council housing debt should be removed from local authorities by central government, thus freeing up much needed new resources for repairs, renovation and new build of council homes.
HO403: The Green Party believes in public ownership under the control of elected representatives as part of mixed provision for social housing. Council housing and the secure tenure it affords is an essential form of social housing provision. National Government must ensure adequate and good quality council housing stock is retained and provided by every local authority. It should also ensure that sufficient funding is available to councils for the provision of effective repairs and maintenance services.
HO404: The Green Party opposes the privatisation of ownership and/or management of social housing. We support initiatives encouraging tenants to take greater control of their homes and communities by becoming involved in co-operatives, tenant management organisations and estate management boards.
HO405 The Green Party opposes the transfer of council housing to Arms-Length Management Organisations. The Green Party recognises the undesirable nature of ALMOs, and the difficulties of ensuring adequate representation for tenants due to the restrictions of board members under company law.
HO406 In those areas where an Arms-Length Management Organisation exists, the Green Party will seek to ensure that it requires genuine tenant participation - noting that a few unaccountable council tenants on the board of an ALMO is not equivalent to full tenant participation. It calls for a 'fourth option' in the funding of social housing, in which Government would provide equal finances for the achievement of the Decent Homes Standard, regardless of whether a local authority retains its council housing stock. It also calls for a ballot of all tenants and leaseholders on the basis of one vote per tenant/leaseholder when an ALMO is being proposed by any local authority. Where such a ballot rejects the proposed ALMO, there should be a restriction preventing the Local Authority conducting another such ballot within the next five years. In all such ballots, bodies representing tenants' opposition to transfer should be allowed equal access to funding for leaflets meetings etc. Tenants whose housing is represented by an ALMO should always be provided with the option of returning to local authority control, if it is requested by a majority in a democratic ballot, and ALMOs should not be used as the first stage towards full-scale stock transfer.
HO407: Our opposition to wholesale housing privatisation (large scale voluntary transfer of stock to private organisations) is based on practical considerations: rents will rise as a direct consequence of transfer and of increasing pressure on housing associations to maximise their income, transfer would result in all tenants having reduced tenancy rights and less than half the capital raised from transfer would be available to spend on new buildings. It may also result in a reduced availability of housing to all those who require affordable housing.
HO409 In the short term, local authorities should be financed in line with their responsibilities and the needs of their localities. Local authorities must have adequate resources to ensure that all of their housing stock is maintained and repaired to a good standard. In the longer term, the development of more self-reliant local economies and the levying of a greater proportion of taxation locally will permit local authorities more autonomy in social housing provision. (see EC550)
HO411 Local authorities should be allowed to build or buy houses where there is a demand for social housing. Receipts from any sales of council housing will be made available to fund further housing and related development. Local authorities will be empowered to buy properties on the open market, to meet housing need and avoid building on green field sites. Where private owners are unable to meet their mortgage repayments, and their homes are repossessed, the local authority should have the first option to buy the property if they wish, and then to negotiate with the previous owners to retain them as council tenants within the property. (see HO703)
HO412 The Green Party would implement a 'Right to Rent' policy. Home owners who are unable to meet their mortgage payments and are under threat of repossession would have a right to transfer ownership to the council, at less than market value, in exchange for the right to remain in the home and pay rent as council tenants. There would be limits on the size and value of house covered by this policy and it would only apply to a sole house owned and occupied by a family or individual. The cost to the council would be covered by government grants or public loans.
HO413 In the short term, government financial support to housing associations through the Housing Corporation should be increased, and provided over terms long enough to allow appropriate planning to meet housing need. This support will favour smaller associations and will be negotiated and agreed with local authorities and community groups. Housing Corporation finance should be used to redress inequalities in housing between areas and to improve the environmental standard of housing built. Flexible shared ownership schemes shall be more prevalent.
HO414 Co-operative forms of home and land ownership and management would be supported and prioritised in housing strategies where they improve access to secure, long-term affordable homes. The cost and difficulty of registration will be reduced, and conveyancing and other regulations will be simplified. Community Banks will provide credit-rated tradable housing investment bonds to increase institutional and individual investment in housing co-operatives. (see EC668) As a result in the longer term, co- operative ownership models will supplant existing shared ownership models to prevent affordable house prices from rising faster than average incomes, complementing policies on Land Value Taxation that suppress housing market price rises. (see EC791)
HO416 Housing co-operatives will be assisted by reduction of the cost of registration, provision of easier access to sources of finance and simplification of the conveyancing process and other regulations.
HO417 A new Co-operative Housing Agency would be set up to promote, support and fund housing co-operatives. It will be run according to co-operative principles with membership drawn from existing co-operatives.
Use of existing housing
HO420 Flats over shops and similar properties will be brought into use. Other commercial property may be suitable for housing use. The division of existing large houses into smaller residential units will be promoted.
HO421 Consideration will be given to "mortgage to rent" schemes to enable those in financial difficulties to stay in their own homes. (see HO703)
HO501 All new houses will be built to improved standards for accessibility, space and facilities, ergonomics, sound and thermal insulation, and energy efficiency. Design standards shall also include consideration of social factors, such as the need for privacy and the need for community focal points. Existing buildings shall be brought as near these standards as practical.
HO502 All new housing will be designed for low energy use, and the same standards applied retrospectively to existing houses where practicable. All sellers of houses will make energy use estimates available to buyers (See EN506). For existing houses insulation publicity campaigns and grants to low income households will encourage energy efficiency. (See HO605 below)
HO504 All new house building and change of use should be subject to open democratic planning approval. For larger schemes and all proposed developments on green field sites, this will require independent comprehensive environmental impact assessments.
HO505 Consultation by the local authority on housing and other developments should be proactive, to discover what the community needs. New housing should be planned for on the basis of independent housing needs surveys; commercial house builders and their representatives shall not be involved in the process of identifying potential sites or assessing housing needs on behalf of the local community. The Green Party's proposals for freedom of information, local referenda, citizens' initiatives and the reform of local government (see Public Adminstration chapter) will make the planning process more democratic and accessible. There will be a limit on spending by developers to promote their plans. (see LP405)
HO506 Local planning authorities may levy a bond on all new housing developments which front onto newroads. The bond would be repaid to the developer when the road footway and street lighting are of a sufficient standard that the road can be adopted by the local authority. The bond, payable to the council at the time of sale, may be up to 10% of the sale price of the dwelling.
HO507 In rural areas the provision of suitable accommodation for agricultural workers wanting to live on the land will be supported. Agricultural conditions on housing will be preserved. An agency will be established to whom farmers have the option to sell houses; such houses would be rented out as affordable housing.
HO510 Health and safety regulations will be vigorously enforced on building sites. Greater protection will be given to residents living near to sites, to minimise damage and disruption. The use of materials with a good lifecycle analysis will be promoted; all recyclable materials from the site should be reclaimed.
We will establish favourable, flexible planning consent with regards to non-load bearing structures of transitory nature such as tents, tipis, benders and yurts. Permanent stay (over 6 months) at one location will be subject to planning approval.
HO601 In the long term the Citizens' Income (see EC730 and subsequently) will be sufficient to cover basic housing costs. Other benefits and tax reliefs will be gradually phased out.
HO602 In the short term the Citizens' Income (see EC730 and subsequently) will provide for a proportion of housing costs. To allow for regional variations, this will be supplemented by a specific housing benefit. This will be payable to all, regardless of their forms of tenure. It will be means tested, and related to rent or mortgage repayments.
HO607. As an immediate response to concerns about the fairness of Council Tax, and to the growing housing crisis (particularly in London and the South East), Greens support the following modifications to Council Tax/National Non-Domestic Rates (NNDR) as a transitional move towards the introduction of Land Value Taxation:
a)no exemptions or reductions for empty or underused properties (including business premises and second homes), with the exception of the
single person occupancy discount for pensioners;
b)creation of new Council Tax bands above H to ensure that as property values get progressively higher so does the tax paid on them;
c)reform of the multiplier rates applied to the bands, to make the tax paid more proportionate to the value of the house;
d)all land holding bodies, public, Housing Association or private, shall be made liable for the payment of Council Tax/NNDR for all properties under their control (although this should not affect reliefs currently given to charities, non-profit making bodies and small rural businesses);
e)all Council Tax bills will be subject to a basic minimum, regardless of location.
HO701 Housing and its immediate environment should be under the control of the people living there. Training and support for tenants will be provided to enable more decentralised and participatory forms of housing management and promote equality of opportunity.
HO702 Self-determination will be encouraged by conferring new legal rights on tenants and their associations. Housing associations will be democratised and their size restricted. The Green Party supports tenant managed estates and housing co-operatives as ways to enable people to take control of their own housing.
HO704 Some areas have acute housing problems which demand more resources from national government. In particular, the lack of affordable housing in many rural areas seriously undermines those communities. Additional investment is required. The Green Party will give priority to provision of homes for local people before permission for second homes.
Protection of tenants
HO801 The Green Party believes that a diversity of periods of tenancy is required to meet the diversity of housing needs identified in HO302. Private Sector tenants should be protected from harassment and unexpected or exploitative alteration in terms. The Green Party supports the full registration of private sector rents as a precursor to monitoring health and safety conditions. New public sector and Housing Association (HA) tenants will be offered tenancies that are as secure as possible given housing authorities other responsibilities.
HO802 Assured shorthold tenancies (AST) should be phased out in the in the private rented sector (PRS). All new (qualifying) tenancies should automatically be assured tenancies with mandatory written tenancy agreements. AST fail to provide the security tenants in the PRS deserve and can be exploited by unscrupulous landlords to easily remove tenants who seek to enforce their rights. AST can encourage landlords to take a speculative approach to property investment with only a short-term commitment to properties. Assured tenancies will provide greater long term security for tenants.
HO803 Housing Benefit should be made far more robust to support poorer HA/LA tenants and to prevent eviction or repossession of either private tenants or homeowners. Councils should be free to set rents at levels which are not so low that property is used wastefully by the occupiers nor so high that it is no longer affordable accommodation.
HO804 Comprehensive housing advice centres will be established. Tenants with grievances against local authorities, housing associations or private landlords will be given full rights of appeal, with the resources to pursue such appeals.
HO806 New legislation will be introduced to protect civil liberties in the home. Subject to a requirement to make good any damage done, tenants will have the right to keep pets and otherwise pursue the lifestyle of their choice. They will also have the right to make environmental improvements to the property such as the installation of insulation or solar panels.
HO901 The existing homeless persons legislation will be amended to give local authorities the same duties with regard to single people and childless couples as to families. The provisions regarding the 'intentionally homeless' will be abolished.
HO902 The use of inappropriate short term accommodation (including hostels and bed and breakfast accommodation) as a way of complying with the duty to the homeless will be ended. (see HO903-6 for alternatives)
HO903 Better use of publicly owned property will be achieved by requiring public bodies either to use all such property, or to permit its use by housing associations, properly organised groups of homeless persons or similar groups.
HO904 Better use of empty privately owned property will be achieved by empowering local authorities to use Empty Property Use Orders, in appropriate cases and with proper safeguards and rights of appeal, to enable the local authority either to use such property itself or to secure its use in co-operation with those groups listed in HO903.
HO905 Local authorities will draw up registers of empty property in their areas and strategies for its use. Homeless people will be consulted on policies for housing provision. Local authorities will advise and assist groups of homeless persons to make proposals about the use of empty property, and to put those proposals into effect.
HO906 Local authorities will be empowered to make or guarantee loans to groups of homeless persons organising schemes to occupy empty property. Building societies will be permitted to make loans to such groups without such loans having to be secured against the property.
HO1001 Poverty and homelessness among young people has been exacerbated by unemployment and the withdrawal of social security benefit. In the short term the Green Party would restore Income Support to people aged 16-25 to the same level to which those over 25 years old are entitled. In the long term the Citizens' Income Scheme is designed to eradicate poverty throughout society.
HO1002 Educational institutions will have a greater responsibility for housing provision for their students. This may take the form of flexible arrangements with local authorities and other housing providers in their areas. Extra funding will allow more provision of student housing on campus sites where appropriate or in purpose-built or refurbished accommodation. Rents would be set by rent officers to ensure that prospective students are not deterred from study by high housing costs.
HO1004 Consideration will be given to the design of new and refurbished housing so that it enables residents more easily to watch out for each other and fosters a sense of community. CoHousing, with its mixture of public and private space, is a suitable model for this. Those who might particularly benefit from this include lone parents and older people. Suitable sheltered accommodation, where possible with these design principles in mind, will be provided by local authorities in association with housing associations, health authorities, charitable and community organisations for the housing of more vulnerable members of society, in particular women and others threatened with violence, the older people and infirm, those with learning difficulties and persons recovering from drug or alcohol abuse. (see SW501 and DU411)
Housing chapter updates