- Substantial revision: October 2021
HO100 Affordable, secure and comfortable accommodation is a basic human right. Those without accommodation and those forced through lack of choice into inadequate or unaffordable housing may lead diminished lives and can be excluded from playing their full part in society.
HO101 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. Government policy has encouraged the treatment of housing as a form of speculative investment, rather than a basic requirement for individual and social well-being.
HO102 Some areas of the UK suffer from severe housing shortages, while large quantities of housing lie vacant in others. Under-occupation of housing sits side by side with overcrowding. Severe problems such as rough sleeping are highly concentrated in a minority of local authorities, for reasons broader than local housing policy. For these reasons, housing policy cannot meet local housing needs in isolation, and must be fully integrated with other social, economic and environmental policies.
HO103 Much of our housing stock is very inefficient in terms of energy and water usage, making our homes a major source of the greenhouse gas emissions which cause the climate emergency. This also causes high levels of fuel poverty, and causes and contributes to physical and mental health problems. Improving the energy efficiency of all homes is a priority.
HO302 Housing policy will be fully integrated with other policies to build more sustainable, self-reliant communities. The provision of housing should be coordinated with the provision of work, leisure, education, transport and health care facilities.
HO400 National government, devolved administrations, the Greater London Authority and local authorities, should publish housing strategies, setting out policies to improve the affordability and quality of local housing, end fuel poverty, reverse environmental damage and end severe problems such as temporary accommodation and rough sleeping.
HO401 A key plank of the Green Party’s national housing strategy would be to improve affordability by stabilising house prices and rents so that there is no further real terms growth in housing costs. In the least affordable markets we would seek to effect a gradual and managed real-terms decline in house prices until average prices are below four times average incomes. A major contributor to high and rapidly rising costs has been excessive demand, in addition to rising incomes and, in some housing markets, a growing population. Reducing excessive demand requires a range of policies covering taxation, the money supply, regional economic development, and housing provision:
a) gradually introduce a Land Value Tax (see LD400) to reduce profits from speculation on existing homes and development sites, and in the short term increase the amount of land held by Community Land Trusts (see HO513–514);
b) deter speculative investors by introducing rent controls and more secure tenancy agreements (see HO519), abolishing any national and/or local tax breaks for Buy-to-Let investors and landlords that relate to mortgage and purchase costs (see HO521), and banning the purchase of residential property by people who are neither British citizens nor resident in the country (see HO531).
c) ensure there are no incentives for owning multiple properties over one, through policies such as requiring council tax premiums on second homes and long-term empty homes (see HO603), and introducing a new planning use class for second homes (non-permanent residences) so that planning permission must be sought if homes are built or bought for that purpose, enabling local authorities to control their proliferation.
d) introduce a new duty for the Bank of England to constrain house price growth through its monetary and financial policy levers, rather than allowing finance to push up prices as has happened in recent decades through policies such as quantitative easing and cheap credit, aiming for house price stability while balancing this with other objectives;
e) abolish policies such as Help to Buy that subsidise demand and so push up prices.
f) to reduce the pressure on overheated housing markets such as London and the South East, we would seek to better distribute economic activity across regions and between rural and urban areas, particularly those with large numbers of long term empty homes, and the reduction of income inequalities, key priorities in our housing and economic strategy (see for example IN302–304 and IN410–414);
g) use forms of housing provision where affordability can be guaranteed irrespective of the wider market conditions, such as social and co-operative housing, and encourage self-build and custom-build that directly meets peoples’ needs while empowering the builders/occupants (see LP514).
HO402 Housing strategies should set out targets for the provision of housing, which shall be sufficient to meet the needs of the current and future population, taking account of current levels of homelessness, overcrowding, concealed households, affordability, inadequate or unsuitable housing, and households unable to meet their housing needs without some form of assistance, and taking account of empty homes, second homes, underutilised housing and buildings, the need to protect land for habitats, industrial and commercial uses, and recreation. Targets shall take account of the current population, and forecast changes to the population’s size and composition. Our chapter on population sets out related policies to reduce population growth, while emphasising in PP111 that housing must be provided in such a way that respects the rights of new and existing residents.
HO403 Housing provision targets should be based upon housing needs surveys produced or commissioned by local authorities; 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.
HO404 Needs assessments should be linked with social care and health policies, to ensure adequate provision of homes for those with care needs, complex disabilities, and other special needs covered in policies HO800–804. The lack of suitable housing currently puts a significant strain on the NHS and other public services.
HO405 The provision of housing should include the construction of new homes, conversion of existing buildings to homes and the refurbishment of empty buildings. Priority will be given to the maintenance and improvement of existing properties where they can be improved in line with the local energy plan and to adequate levels of energy and water efficiency (see HO410 (c) and (d)). In the short term we would seek to remove VAT from repair and refurbishment to remove the disincentive for this option.
HO406 Demolition will be discouraged, as set out in LP411, particularly where it would lead to the loss of social or co-operative housing.
HO407 Local authorities should aim for no more than 0.5% of homes to be empty for more than six months, and should draw up registers of empty property in their areas. They should also make much more proactive use of Empty Dwelling Management Orders and work with self-help co-operatives to bring homes into use. The Green Party would review and amend the EDMO legislation to make EDMOs more effective and easier for local authorities to use.
HO408 Local authorities should also address under-occupation through encouraging mutual exchange of homes, helping to match people who want to downsize with those who need more space, and providing more homes suitable for people to downsize into such as smaller social rented homes for elderly people. Successful schemes such as “Seaside and country homes” should be extended to people in all housing tenures, and to all local authorities. The Green Party does not support punitive welfare measures such as the Bedroom Tax to force people to downsize, and would scrap any such policies.
HO409 Strategies should link with local planning policies, to ensure that there are sufficient buildings and land identified to meet targets, while ensuring that planning policy encourages sustainable patterns of development (see LP400-407 and LP505-513).
HO410 Although we expect to build no more new homes than in the decade 2010-2019 we will create more new homes in total by:
bringing empty homes into use (HO401, HO402),
retrofitting, converting and extending existing buildings (HO405) and
reducing demolition rates (HO406).
HO411 We will make a large net increase in social housing by
targeting over 50% share of new build and housing produced by HO410 policies to be social housing ending the sell-off of social housing (HO503).”
Consultation and Community Involvement
HO415 Consultation by national government, devolved administrations, the Greater London Authority and local authorities on strategies should be proactive, to discover what the community needs, in line with policies on consultation for local plans set out in LP502.
Local Authority Housing
HO500 The Green Party believes in the value of 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.
HO502 Local authorities should be encouraged to build or buy homes where there is a need for social housing as a principal means of meeting their obligations to homeless people and people in housing need.
HO503 Each local authority should decide which, if any, of its properties should be offered for sale, while remaining mindful of the need for social housing in their local area. Local authorities will retain receipts from the sale of housing, and will be encouraged to reinvest the money in the improvement of local housing provision. The Right to Buy, the Right to Acquire and any other policies for the large-scale sell-off of social housing will be abolished, as will discounts for tenants.
HO504 The Green Party opposes the transfer of ownership and/or management of social housing to non-democratic bodies.
HO505 Delete all and substitute: 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, so long as these don’t provide a first step towards privatisation. In those areas where an Arms-Length Management Organisation exists, tenants should be given opportunities for genuine decision making, including in the governance and structure of the organisation and options to transfer the homes to a co-operative or back to the council.
HO506 Housing associations (or registered social providers) can be effective providers of housing to rent, and can serve particular needs, for example for people with mental health or learning disabilities, people who use drugs problematically, the formerly homeless, ex-offenders and people fleeing domestic violence. They have also been responsible for considerable innovation in the housing sector, for example in championing refurbishment rather than redevelopment and supporting further tenant involvement.
HO507 Some housing associations are too large and commercial in nature. They must be democratised, with a fundamental shift of power in favour of tenants and increased accountability to the local community, aided by a reduction in size and the mandatory representation of tenants on their boards. The Green Party would give tenants and local councillors greater representation on their boards.
HO508 In view of their public role, and the substantial amount of public funding they receive, housing associations will be made public bodies susceptible to such checks on the exercise of their functions as judicial review, the Human Rights and the Freedom of Information Act, and shall be required to publish open data on their finances and operations that will assist their tenants, councillors and other stakeholders in effectively scrutinising their operations.
HO509 In the short term, government financial support to housing associations 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.
HO510 Rent levels and tenancy agreements should offer tenants genuine affordability and security. The Green Party would set a national rent policy that would require Housing Associations to set rents at levels that ensure genuine affordability for those on low incomes. Housing associations should work with local authorities to meet the needs of all those in the local community excluded by private market housing. The default tenancy agreements should be secure, lifetime tenancies.
Community led housing
HO511 Community led 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. They can engender increased satisfaction, pride in the community, enhanced training and employment opportunities, and a greater degree of enfranchisement for tenants and residents.
HO512 The Green Party would support community and co-operative enabling bodies at the regional or county level, as appropriate. These would provide technical support in areas such as legislation, business planning, governance, accounting, land acquisition and development, and provide seedcorn funding to communities wishing to establish a new community led housing organisation or project.
HO513 Community led housing organisations will be assisted by provision of easier access to sources of finance and simplification of the conveyancing process and other regulations. The Green Party would ensure revenue and capital funding is available on terms that are suitable for the variety of local projects communities develop. We would also require the Bank of England’s regulatory bodies to enshrine the International Co-operative Alliance’s Cooperative Principles in their policies and practices, for example to better tackle demutualisation.
HO514 Where public land is used for the provision of housing, it should either remain in public ownership or be transferred to a Community Land Trust to preserve it as a community-owned asset. Where any public land or homes that are transferred to a co-operative, a legally binding non-demutualisation clause should be written into the contract.
HO515 Community Banks will provide credit-rated tradable housing investment bonds to increase institutional and individual investment in housing co-operatives. (see EC668)
HO516 In the medium-to-long 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).
HO517 Mutual retirement housing and specialist retirement co-housing would be promoted. Like housing associations, the potential for co-operatives to serve particular needs would be also recognised, for example for people with mental health or learning disabilities, people who use drugs problematically, the formerly homeless, ex-offenders and women fleeing domestic violence.
Private rented housing
HO519 Assured Shorthold Tenancies should be phased out, and replaced with a new Stable Rental Tenancy, which would recognise the principle that the property is the home of the tenant first, and an asset of the landlord second. This will include the following provisions:
a) Security of tenure, during which time the tenant can end the tenancy with two months’ notice. The reasons why the landlord can end a tenancy are set out below.
b) The abolition of section 21 “no fault eviction” powers for landlords, so it is the choice of good tenants whether they wish to remain in the property. The landlord may only end the tenancy in order to sell the property (with proof of purchase), to move in or where there has been a serious breach of the contract.
c) Rents should be controlled. The Green Party would aim for controls to achieve a ‘Living Rent’, such that median local rents would take up no more than 35% of the local median take-home pay, and in implementing any controls we would strike a balance between affordability and predictability for tenants, and the landlords’ need to invest in their homes and make a reasonable profit.
HO520 Local authorities shall establish Private Residential Tenancy Boards, providing an informal, cheap and speedy forum for resolving disputes before they reach a tribunal. Tenancy relations will become a statutory duty for local authorities.
HO521 The Green Party would re-introduce repairs and improvement grants, and review the tax treatment of private landlords to incentivise repairs, improvements, better management and longer tenancies. Tax allowances on buy-to-let mortgages would be abolished.
HO522 The Green Party would bring lettings agents under the definition of an estate agency and give the Office of Fair Trading the ability to ban agents who act improperly. It would be illegal for lettings agents to charge potential and current tenants any fees. We would introduce measures to ensure that people were not discriminated against regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, class, caste, religion, belief, sex, gender, language, sexual orientation, gender identity, sex characteristics, age, health or other status. Local authorities would be encouraged to establish ethical, or social, lettings agencies, with the aim of helping people find affordable and suitable accommodation, linking with local authority, housing association and co-operative landlords where applicable.
HO523 To tackle rogue and slum landlords, the Green Party would simplify and toughen up the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), ensure local authorities dedicate adequate resources to proactively enforce it, and introduce a national landlord licensing scheme, with the enforcement of licenses operated by local authorities and punitive penalties for landlords who fail to gain a license or meet the HHSRS requirements. We would also tackle landlords converting homes into unsuitable dwellings and then obtaining a Lawful Development Certificate by giving local authorities 10 years to take enforcement action, rather than 4 years as at present.
HO524 The Green Party would make it illegal to discriminate against tenants who receive housing benefit, and scrap requirements for landlords to check the immigration status of tenants.
HO525 The Green Party would support the development of a “Tenants’ Movement” to provide a voice for tenants at a local and national level. The Green Party would promote and fund the formation and development of renters’ unions.
HO527 Support for ‘low cost home ownership’ schemes such as Shared Ownership would be phased out. These often represent poor value for money, tie occupants into uncompetitive mortgages and can be difficult to sell. They would be replaced by co-operative home ownership models (see HO516) and in the long term made unnecessary by policies to bring down prices such as Land Value Taxation. Existing shared ownership leaseholders who are evicted shall be entitled to their share of the market value of the property.
HO528 Residential leasehold would be phased out, and all new developments would be freehold, commonhold or co-operatively owned. Exceptions will be made for community led housing organisations, and others with ethical uses for leasehold. Existing leaseholders would be given the right to buy their freehold at a fair price. Leaseholders under the same freehold will also be able to transfer to commonhold on a simple majority vote and without paying the unfair marriage value penalty. Leaseholders would gain stronger protection against forfeit of lease if they get into a small debt or other breach of lease.
HO530 The Green Party would help people at risk of repossession keep their homes via a Right to Rent scheme. This would enable them to sell their home to their local authority at a fair market rate, and rent it back under the terms available to council tenants, meaning they could stay in their home until they wanted to move or buy it back from the local authority.
HO531 The Green Party would increase the tax-free amount on the ‘Rent a Room’ scheme to a level sufficient to reduce repossessions, provide more affordable housing and make better use of the existing housing stock, and would increase the level thereafter by inflation each year. Local authorities should give advice and support to owner occupiers considering taking on a lodger, and to lodgers, and consider setting up a brokerage service to encourage lodging. To give greater protection and certainty over rent levels to lodgers, we would extend the rent controls proposed in HO519 (but not security of tenure) for the duration of the agreement.
HO532 Too many homes have become safety deposit boxes, holiday homes, or rarely occupied town homes for non-resident foreign nationals. This extra demand drives up prices and leads to significant under-occupation of property in some parts of the country. To tackle this, the Green Party would ban the purchase of residential property by non-resident foreign nationals.
HO600 In the long term Universal Basic Income (see EC730 and subsequently) will be reviewed to establish how housing benefit (and the housing element of Universal Credit) could be incorporated into Universal Basic Income.
HO601 In the short term the housing benefit system will remain in place alongside Universal Basic Income. Housing benefit will be payable to all tenants in rented accommodation, with payable rates set annually at actual rent levels for social tenants and at the median local market rent for private tenants. Benefit levels should support people on low incomes, the unemployed, retirees, those unable to work and carers to stay in and contribute to their local communities. There shall be no discrimination or variation of housing benefits, such as on the basis of age or employment status, and no withdrawal of benefits through sanctions or other means.
HO602 Though it represents a small part of the social security budget, we currently pay too much in housing benefit to private landlords. The Green Party would seek to bring down the benefit bill by creating more social housing, and by reducing market rents, rather than by cutting benefits.
HO603 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):
a) introduction of mandatory premiums on long-term empty properties (left empty for more than six months) or underused properties, including business premises and second homes, the level of which to be determined by the local authority, 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).
Financing new housing
HO604 A Green government would ensure sufficient capital funding for buying back, refurbishing, and building new social housing to meet needs and provide for the backlog of social housing within ten years. In the long-term, this would be repaid by the reductions in housing benefit payments.
HO606 The Green Party will also work with the Public Works Loan Board, public and private pension funds, and community banks to ensure that local authorities, housing associations and housing co-operatives are able to access affordable finance.
HO607 The house building industry is currently too concentrated and uncompetitive, dominated by a small number of large developers. This not only restricts the provision of housing where it is needed, but is also undermines democracy by giving too much power over the location and design of homes to a small number of companies. The Green Party would act to diversify the industry. This would be achieved in large part through the parcelling of land into smaller plots (LP515), bringing transparency to the land market (LP517), and retaining public land in public or local community hands rather than selling it to big developers (HO514). We would also work with financial bodies listed in HO606 to improve access to development finance for small and medium sized developers.
Homelessness and rough sleeping
HO700 The Green Party believes that nobody should be left homeless, and nobody should sleep rough on the streets, in the 21st century. Too many live in insecure, unsafe places. We would aim to end rough sleeping, defined as sleeping rough for more than one night, within our first term of office.
HO701 Homeless people should never be denied accommodation because of a failure to comply with a treatment programme. To recognise our belief that affordable, secure and comfortable accommodation is a basic human right (HO100), the Green Party would abandon the current ‘Treatment First’ model and adopt the ‘Housing First’ model. This would enable them to participate in treatment with the guarantee of a stable home, addressing chronic homelessness.
HO702 The existing homeless persons legislation would be amended to give local authorities the same duties with regard to single people and childless couples as to families, we would abolish priority need criteria, and we would ensure provision for the ‘intentionally homeless’ beyond the provisions set out in the ‘relief’ duty. Local authorities will be given a duty to provide sufficient social rented and co-operative housing to meet local needs, and the power to discharge the main housing duty (but not the relief and prevention duty) into the private rented sector will be abolished, which in many local areas will require a huge increase in the stock of social rented and co-operative housing.
HO703 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 as policies for social housing increase its availability to local authorities.
HO704 Local authorities should review their registers of empty property (see HO407) for opportunities to help homeless households, funding local organisations such as self-help co-operatives to bring them back into use as short-life and permanent dwellings. Building societies will be permitted to make loans to such groups without such loans having to be secured against the property.
HO705 Every local authority should work with partners to ensure a well promoted, effective and welcoming Housing Options and Advice Service is provided for all who need it, along with effective counselling, mental health and support services for those who have suffered abuse, short-term support services for people leaving care, hospital, prison or the armed services, and tailored skills and employment assistance for those out of work. We would address the exclusion of homeless people from mainstream healthcare services.
HO706 Homelessness rarely respects local government boundaries, so national government, devolved administrations and the Greater London Authority need to ensure that there is joined-up provision of services, and that this extends to related services such as the NHS, immigration services and the Armed Services, so that people aren’t discharged into homelessness. Commissioning of services by local authority partnerships or regional bodies will be encouraged.
HO707 We recognise that European Union citizens and other migrants make a significant contribution to the economy of the UK and are much less likely to claim benefits than their UK counterparts. The Green Party will bring greater equity to the tax and benefit system by ensuring that when they fall into difficulties such as homelessness or rough sleeping they are entitled to the help as UK citizens such as local authority advice and basic levels of Social Security support. This will mean removing ‘Recourse to Public Funds’ as a prerequisite for accessing homelessness assistance. It is unacceptable that people who came to the UK to work are left to die on the streets.
Other particular needs
HO800 The Green Party would immediately restore a comprehensive set of emergency grants and loans to local authorities and to households and individuals who have special housing-related needs. These should cover housing costs, and associated costs such as moving and furnishing their home.
HO801 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 equalise benefits such as Jobseekers Allowance, Universal Credit and Housing Benefit 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.
HO802 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.
HO803 Despite existing statutory duties, too many local authorities have failed to provide adequate residential and transit sites for Gypsies and Travellers. Policies to ensure this injustice is remedied are set out in policies RR700-703.
HO804 Promote cohousing as a means of fostering a greater sense of community and mutual support, with its mixture of public and private space. 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 with recovering from drug or alcohol dependency (see SW501 and DU411).
HO805 Support Live-Work homes (e.g. living space above shops for employees) for those who need to live close to their job such as in Green Jobs (IN214, IN404) in the countryside, but also for bringing empty properties back into use.
Housing Chapter updates:
Spring 2018: Remove references to Energy chapter that no longer apply