What does the conference season hold for landlords?
Despite the political uncertainty, the expectation is that the political parties will go ahead with their planned conference season. Even if an election is called, which is looking likely for November, parties will want to use the party conferences as a big general election campaigning event.
But what does this mean for landlords?
For the Conservatives, the conference season will be an opportunity to get their message out. It’ll be an enormous public stage for the prime minister and even his advisers to have a platform to talk to audiences about things they think will grab headlines.
Housing looks to have been demoted as an issue. For the Conservatives, it's all about the NHS, education and crime. They have been very quiet on housing in general, and little more has been said about the proposals to abolish Section 21 brought in under former PM Theresa May. That said, Chris Norris, NLA’s director of policy and practice, suggests that although the odds have changed it’s still more likely that the policy will take effect. Because the consultation was pushed out, ministers must be seen to act, but some policies may get kicked into the long grass.
What we can expect at least one minister to talk about is building more houses, but it’s unlikely we’ll hear any detail on how they propose to do that.
One thing to keep in mind is that under the new Government, the cabinet advisers certainly take a more ‘free market, less interventionist’ stance than under May.
The Labour Party
Labour has clearly set out its stall on private renting, with a number of proposals from rent controls to the abolition of Section 21. The most recent announcement by shadow chancellor John McDonnell suggested handing tenants the Right to Buy from private landlords at below-market prices to be determined by the Government.
In an interview with the Financial Times, the shadow chancellor said he wanted to “tackle the burgeoning buy-to-let market” to allow tenants to buy the homes they live in. “You’d want to establish what is a reasonable price, you can establish that and then that becomes the right to buy,” he told the FT. “You (the Government) set the criteria. I don’t think it’s complicated.”
“It goes beyond the traditional Labour stance. It’s all very much about populist politics. I'm sure their conference and debates will focus a lot more on housing than the Conservatives will,” Norris says.
The Labour Party views housing as a clear general election campaigning issue, so we can expect to see more pronouncements or greater detail on their housing policies during their conference. That said, reporting on those issues may be overshadowed by the ongoing Brexit debate.
The Liberal Democrats
The Liberal Democrats will undoubtedly be focusing their conference on remaining in the EU, as that’s what differentiates them from all other parties. The party has always sought to protect tenants, as long as it's not at the expense of liberal investment, so we may see some news from them on housing, but it is unlikely to feature as a major campaigning policy for them.