Tweedledee, Tweedledum, Tweedle-Dem

As Cleggmania sweeps Britain - well, saunters down the middle of the road anyway – I thought we should look at how the Lib Dems’ housing policies would conflict with Labour’s and the Conservatives’.

It’s disappointing how few housing and development policies the parties have set out but if we are in for a hung parliament with the Lib Dems linking with a second party, these are the potential housing clash-points. The Lib Dems…

…oppose eco-towns, a cherished (if largely unfulfilled) Labour policy, but want stricter eco-criteria for new-build homes – unspecified aspirations which both the other main parties hint at, too;

...want to sharply reduce numbers of quangos with development powers in favour of elected local authorities - slightly closer to the Tories' ideas than to Labour;

…want to build “tens of thousands of affordable homes to rent”, a policy so broad and uncontentious (as it gives no idea of where, how or by when) that almost any other party could live with it;

…call for a grant system to bring 250,000 empty homes back into use by incentivising owners. The Tories have very gingerly suggested the same thing and Cameron very publicly backed initiatives along these lines by the Empty Homes Agency;

…want to scrap regional housing targets and devolve planning powers to towns and neighbourhoods. Again its commitment is extraordinarily vague but this certainly is in the camp of the more specific Tory ‘localism’ proposals;

...suggest adding VAT to new-build homes. You don't need me to tell you how the volume builders have responded to that. No other party has advocated it;

…want to control the numbers of second homes – its manifesto does not say how but it does hint at using development control and zoning powers to prevent further homes in certain locations becoming holiday properties. The other two parties have steered clear of this hot potato;

…advocate a so-called SafeStart mortgage system to protect buyers from negative equity if house prices plunge and oblige lenders to slow down their policies on repossession. The Tories and Labour both have broadly similar (that is, broadly unspecific) promises.

It looks to me as if there is somewhat more common ground between the Lib Dems and the Tories than with Labour, but it's a close run thing. In any case, the three have many policies (on housing and other subjects) that are virtually interchangeable.

But let's remember one fact.

There may be a shortage of homes compared to households, significant levels of homelessness, and high prices and poor mortgage availability causing owner-occupation to fall for the first time in four decades, yet no party is putting forward what anyone could claim to be a major cohesive policy on housing.

And that is to the eternal shame of all of our politicians.

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