What housing policies would Britons support to tackle the housing crisis?

Isabelle KirkData Journalist
February 07, 2022, 9:47 AM GMT+0

There is considerable support among Britons for more government intervention in housing policy

Rising rental prices, a record rise in house prices, a shortage of social housing and a construction supply chain and labour shortage crisis – it’s no wonder that 81% of Britons think housing is an issue in the UK at the moment.

YouGov reported in December that 60% of Britons think that government policy has had a negative impact on housing in the UK – but what policies would the public like to see put in place?

Of nine policies we asked about, the most popular is increasing the percentage of new builds required to be set aside for affordable housing. Seven in 10 Britons (69%) would support such a move, with just 15% opposed. Currently, there is no national law that requires developers to set aside a percentage of homes for affordable housing, with such decisions left mainly up to individual local authorities.

There is similarly high support (69%) for increasing council tax for second homes, with 20% opposed. Owners of second homes in Britain at the moment can apply to their local council for a discount on their council tax, although there is a premium levied on homes that have been empty for two years or more.

However, while the British public think your second home should be taxed more, they don’t mind you owning one. The majority (58%) of Britons oppose banning people from owning second homes, although 27% would back such a ban.

There is more support (49%) for getting rid of non-domiciled property ownership ­– forbidding people whose primary country of residence is not the UK from buying a house here – with 33% opposed. Foreign ownership of homes in England and Wales has tripled in the last decade, with concerns that overseas investment in the UK housing market has been a contributing factor to rising house prices.

There is support among both Labour and Conservative voters for almost all the policies we asked about. And while Labour voters tend to be more strongly in favour of these policies, foreign investment in the UK house market is more unpopular with Conservatives – 56% of Tory voters would support an end to non-domiciled property ownership, compared with 45% of Labour voters.

Two thirds of Britons support taxing empty homes… or seizing them for council housing

Levelling Up secretary Michael Gove has said that the government will introduce a tax on empty properties that are not being let out to tourists. Two-thirds of the British public (67%) support the introduction of additional tax on properties that are empty for more than six months a year, with 18% opposed.

A majority (65%) also support councils being given the powers to acquire long-term empty properties at below-market value for use as social housing, with 19% opposed. Such a policy was implemented in Barcelona in 2020. There has been a steady rise in long-term empty homes in England over the last five years, with almost 240,000 homes standing long-term empty in 2021.

Two thirds of Britons support rent caps

Two in three Britons (67%) also support a cap on private rental rates, with 17% opposed. Currently, rent increases must be in line with average local rents, but there is no cap on the rent itself.

Half of the British public (50%) would be in favour of banning buy-to-let mortgages on newly built properties, which would prevent new builds being bought up by landlords, with 27% opposed.

Britons are more split on ‘indefinite tenancies’, whereby tenancies can only be brought to an end when the tenant wants to move or in cases of criminal damage or failing to pay rent, with 44% of the public supporting the introduction of indefinite tenancies and 35% opposed. Labour promised in 2019 that they would bring in this policy if elected (and most who voted for the party that year support the policy, at 55%).

Indefinite tenancies would also put an end to controversial ‘no-fault evictions’, which the government has promised to review in a white paper this year.

See full results here

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