At their party conference this week, Liberal Democrats endorsed
the policy paper 'Decent Homes for
All'. Key proposals include:
- Action to increase housebuilding to 300,000 homes a year,
including giving more freedom to councils and housing
- Improved energy efficiency in all public housing by 2018.
- More powers for councils to tackle empty homes.
- Stronger powers for the Social Housing Regulator, including
reintroduction of inspections.
- Allow councils and housing associations to charge higher rents
to better-off tenants.
The Lib Dems envisage a significant increase in new building by
councils and housing associations, although no specific numbers are
proposed. They argue, correctly, that housing construction has the
potential to provide a major stimulus to the economy, with an
estimated £2.84 in additional spending generated through the
multiplier by each pound spent on construction.
And, also with justification, they point out that there is a
strong invest-to-save case for investment in social housing, since
the higher initial cost of subsidising new social homes will be
repaid over time by a lower call on housing benefit compared with
providing housing for the same tenant in the private rented
In the case of local authority housing, the case for allowing
additional investment is even stronger, since there need be no call
on current government spending where the necessary subsidy can be
provided from within the HRA.
The Lib-Dem paper pursues this argument to its logical conclusion,
proposing the abolition of HRA debt caps and the reclassification
of HRA borrowing to take it off the public sector balance
ARCH is supporting research led by the National Federation of
ALMOs to develop a reasoned case for just these changes, which is
likely to be published within the next month or so. It looks as
though, as far as the Lib Dems are concerned, we are pushing at an
The big - and obvious - question, however, is how much of this
agenda has any chance of adoption by the Lib Dems' Coalition