Housing and the Environment

UKIP is the only party to recognise that a house needs to be built every seven minutes to meet demand. The housing shortage is leading to higher rents, less stable tenancies, and rising homelessness. This is completely unsustainable.

There is a dire shortage of affordable housing in Britain. Many of those who would like to own their own home are simply unable to even contemplate it. They are ‘locked out’ of home ownership.

Social housing waiting lists get longer and longer. The Thatcher era saw a dramatic extension in home ownership, but with a corresponding decline in social housing, as proceeds from the ‘Right to Buy’ initiative were not reinvested back into community housing.

Only 23 per cent of properties are deemed ‘affordable’ nationally, but the situation is even worse in the countryside, where only 5 per cent of rural properties are affordable and social housing is more difficult to find. Yet no-one wants to see our green fields concreted over, or the beauty of our rural landscape destroyed.

UKIP will introduce policies to incentivise the creation of more affordable housing, while protecting rural communities and preserving our precious countryside.

BRINGING EMPTY HOMES BACK INTO USE

Housing charity Shelter reports there are 279,000 privately- owned long-term empty homes in England alone, while other bodies, such as the Empty Homes Agency, put the figure much higher still. The most obvious way to create new homes is by bringing these empty homes back into use. We will place a statutory duty on local authorities to:

  • Include a commitment to bringing empty properties back into use within their broader housing and planning strategies
  • Charge those whose homes are empty for more than two years 50 per cent more than the applicable rate of council tax, with exceptions for owners who are in HM Armed Forces.

INCENTIVISING BROWNFIELD DEVELOPMENT

It would be possible to build up to 2.5 million houses on brownfield sites, if developers were less reluctant to take advantage of this rich source of potential housing land. Problems with remediation of derelict land that has had a previous use and may have contamination issues to address can be off-putting to potential developers. This is despite the fact technology to clean up sites and make them fit for new development is now readily available.

We will take steps to remove the barriers to brownfield builds with the aim of building one million homes on brownfield sites by 2025 to address the current housing shortage.

UKIP will require the Environment Agency to compile a National Brownfield Sites Register and provide a remediation assessment where appropriate. The following financial incentives will be offered to encourage developers to build on brownfield sites:

  • Grants of up to £10,000 per unit will be available to developers to carry out essential remediation work.
  • Properties built on registered brownfield sites will be exempt from stamp duty on first sale, up to the £250,000 threshold.
  • A grant to cover the cost of indemnity insurance will also be available to developers of decontaminated land.

To further incentivise brownfield development, local authorities will be allowed to keep the New Homes Bonus beyond six years on brownfield sites.

BUILDING AFFORDABLE HOMES

We will increase the supply of affordable housing by:

  • Identifying long-term dormant land held by central and local government so it can be released for affordable developments
  • Relax planning regulations for the conversion of off-high road commercial and office space and other existing buildings to affordable residential use.

While these measures will help address the housing shortage, we cannot just build our way out of the housing crisis. Our housing policy needs to be seen within a wider context of addressing the issue of supply and demand. Controlling the numbers of new migrants coming to Britain is one important part of the housing jigsaw.

TACKLING HOMELESSNESS

There are no clear national statistics to tell us how many people are homeless in the UK. To give an indication of the scale of the problem, the Autumn 2014 total of rough sleeping counts and estimates in England was 2,744, according to the government. This was an increase of 14 per cent on 2013 figures. Meanwhile, 112,070 people declared themselves homeless in England in 2013/4.

The scale of homelessness in 2015 is morally reprehensible and UKIP will seek to eliminate this national scandal.

Tackling homelessness starts with knowing who and where homeless people are, so they can be offered housing and other life opportunities. We will establish a National Homeless Register to make it easier for those of no fixed abode to claim welfare entitlements; get access to medical and dental services; and enable support services to identify those at risk of physical, psychological and sexual abuse.

LOCAL HOMES FOR LOCAL PEOPLE

UKIP will encourage moves by local authorities to prioritise people with strong local connections when making housing allocations.

We will relieve pressure on social housing waiting lists by preventing foreign nationals from obtaining access to social housing until they have lived here and paid UK Tax and National Insurance for a minimum of five years. This restriction will not apply to foreign nationals with current social housing tenancies.

RIGHT TO BUY AND HELP TO BUY

UKIP supports the principle of extending home ownership and giving people the right to own the homes they may have lived in for generations as social housing tenants. We will plough 100 per cent of all revenue from Right to Buy sales, after essential costs have been paid back, into new community housing.

We will not allow non-British nationals access to the Right to Buy or Help to Buy schemes, unless they have served in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces.

Given that Britain’s social housing stock is so massively oversubscribed, we do not believe it is either sensible or fair to give foreign nationals the opportunity to obtain social housing stock, buy their home at a discount and then sell it for an untaxed profit before moving back abroad. All local authorities, social landlords and housing associations will be required to register the nationality of their tenants in order to ensure this policy works in practice.

In the same way, only British citizens will be permitted to access Help to Buy schemes.

PROTECTING OUR COUNTRYSIDE

UKIP will not allow new housing to strip our nation of prime agricultural land. This must be kept for its primary purpose, creating a secure food supply for Britain and for export. Neither will we allow the countryside to be swamped by over-development: we believe strongly that our countryside must be preserved so it can be enjoyed by future generations.

We will replace the current National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and introduce fresh national planning guidelines that will prioritise brownfield sites for new housing and genuinely protect the green belt.

The NPPF as it stands is disastrous for the environment. It has given developers the green light to build just about anywhere and seriously restricts the ability of local authorities to refuse planning permission for inappropriate developments.

The Tories promised ‘localism,’ in their 2010 Manifesto, saying they would give more power to local people but, in reality, their planning policies have stripped powers away from communities.

UKIP genuinely supports local communities having a greater say over what happens in their locality and we will

  • Free local authorities from government-imposed minimum housing numbers
  • Reverse current policies of facilitating large-scale rural residential developments,
  • Promote smaller 6-12 unit developments in rural areas to extend existing villages
  • Encourage local authorities to require a proportion of self-build plots to be provided in all large developments
  • Allow large-scale developments to be overturned by a binding local referendum triggered by the signatures of 5 per cent of electors within a planning authority area, collected within three months
  • Reduce the cost and bureaucracy of planning applications by merging Planning and Building Control departments in local authorities.

SUPPORTING HOMEOWNERS

UKIP will change the law to allow mortgages to become inheritable, as they are in other countries. This will allow lenders to resume lending to older borrowers.

UKIP will not introduce any form of ‘Mansion Tax.’