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By Graham Norwood

Editor, LLT and LAT

Graham Awards

OTHER FEATURES

Industry Views - Keir! Rishi! - What About Housing?

And so we wait.

The election, still only a week old and with almost five left to go, has served up main course policies on health, pensions, taxation, business and of course national service.

On side dishes there’s been a lot about Diane Abbott along with another Tory MP’s defection to Labour.

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But the subject of housing - where is it?

The Conservatives have made a passing reference to getting tougher on antisocial behaviour by council tenants but aside from that - nothing.

Zero publicity

This is despite both major parties making much play in recent months of courting younger, renter voters in particular.

Some housing announcements will come of course but I think there are two reasons for the low priority.

Firstly, while housing occupies the minds and jobs of readers of this column, it’s not so critically important to most others.

My evidence is an interesting study done in recent days, which received just about zero publicity in the mainstream media.

Conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies, a market research and polling company, it asked a huge sample of 12,000 voters over a 48-hour period early this week to identify which way they were inclined to vote, and which issues were influential in forming their allegiance:

The Economy    70% amongst likely Con voters / 66% amongst likely Lab voters
Immigration Con 54% / Lab 26%
Healthcare Con 48% / Lab 63%
Police/Crime Con 23% / Lab 17%
Housing Con 17% / Lab 30%

So housing actually comes at the bottom for Tories and pretty low even amongst Labour voters.

The second reason I believe that housing has taken a policy back seat so far is that the Tories are going for what party insiders admit is a “Dunkirk strategy.”

That is, they know they’re going to lose so they’re just trying to minimise casualties.

So, in the past week the Conservatives have emphasised triple lock pension handouts for core Tory voters (ie, pensioners) while offering young voters a year in the army (a policy more likely to be popular with pensioners than with the 18 year olds exposed to do the deed itself).

When the parties eventually do come around to talking about housing - in the next few days, I’m sure - this is what I think we should look for:

From the Conservatives:

•    Can they really put forward something akin to the Renters Reform Bill after the farrago of the past five years?

•    Likewise, having scrapped formal targets, what will they say about housebuilding levels?

•    Will they pull a stamp duty rabbit out of the hat with a pledge to increase home ownership?

•    Or, most likely of all in my opinion, will we see a pledge to scrap Inheritance Tax once and for all?

From Labour:

•    On rental reform, will they stick to their recent pledge to scrap Section 21 “on the first day in power”?

•    Having won support already from house builders, will Labour produce new build targets?

•    Will the party give local councils and Mayors more powers…including the dreaded rent controls?

•    And what about Airbnbs and holiday lets, so recently made the pantomime villains of the housing market?

The other parties will respond with piecemeal answers on selected items but Labour and Conservatives really have to address all of these housing points (and more) if they are to be considered seriously by …well, industry insiders like us.

Also in the week ahead, expect to see some property industry influencers come out for specific parties.

So far we’ve had the totally predictable Trevor Abrahmsohn, of Glentree Estates, say he’s a Brexiteer Tory and the utterly unpredictable news that William Reeves of Goodlord backs Labour - perhaps surprising given the so-called fire-and-rehire industrial dispute at that PropTech firm in 2021.

High suspicion

In past elections a few prominent agents have spoken up for the Conservatives and almost none for Labour: will that change this time round?

And there’s more to look out for: there are at least two polls currently being conducted to gauge the views of the private rental sector towards the prospect of a Labour government.

There’s already been one along similar lines, by mortgage lender Lindsay, and future ones are likely to have the same result: there’s a high suspicion of Labour amongst the lettings sector (and there’s no time for the Tories, given what’s happened since 2019).

My view? Don’t trust any survey unless it’s conducted by a professional polling organisation and consisting of at least 2,000 respondents - any less than that, and it’s all just PR for the firm which commissioned the survey.

Have a good week and don’t forget the first televised debate between the two main party leaders on ITV1 on Tuesday June 4 at 9pm. (Or, for a stitch up of a different kind, The Great British Sewing Bee on BBC One at the same time).

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