We’ve all seen the headlines. Families priced out. Young people stuck renting. Social housing waiting lists through the roof. There is a housing crisis in the UK and it’s getting worse. The next government faces some tough choices; more defence spending, an NHS crying out for cash, councils on their knees, paying for net zero. Not to mention the massive compensation bills for scandals like the Post Office affair.

Politicians often make big promises on housing during election campaigns. The issue ranks highly with the electorate and the media’s full of stories about shoddy homes, failing housing organisations, rogue landlords and the impact on ordinary families. But once a party’s in power, it slips down the agenda. Other ‘urgent’ issues take priority and funds get diverted. A revolving door of 13 housing ministers in 10 years hasn’t helped either.

Money will be tight. Housing solutions can’t rely on government funding alone. To tackle the problem, we need fresh thinking from the private sector to generate public support and the attention of policymakers, along with revised housing policies.

The context of the crisis

We have a severe lack of social housing, and private renters face huge competition for property as well as rising rents.

More than 70% of the UK public believe the government is responsible for fixing the country’s shortage of homes, according to the Home Builders Federation’s Housing the Nation Report. But fewer than 20% believe politicians understand the challenges young people face trying to get on the housing ladder.

The stats speak for themselves. Last year, 1.3 million households were on social housing waiting lists. 3,000 people sleeping rough every night – a 26% rise. And 280,000 people were in temporary accommodation – up 14% and mostly families.

Homeownership is increasingly out of reach too. Between 2013 and 2023, average house prices rose 66% while earnings only went up 42%. Private sector rents jumped 8.9% in just 12 months.

All parties agree we need more homes but how we achieve that hasn’t been so unanimous. Planning reform has often stalled under the Conservatives due to backbench rebellions and the NIMBY attitudes of those in leafy constituencies. But Labour and the Lib Dems now recognise private investment is key.

Here’s what the major parties think needs to be done:

conservative party logo

  • An advisory target to build 300,000 new homes a year.
  • Reform of the private rented sector, including the ban on section 21 evictions, development of an Ombudsman for the PRS and a new Property Portal.
  • Opposition to all forms of rent control.
  • Reform of Section 106 obligations into a new ‘infrastructure levy’.
  • Easing of planning rules in cities to allow for the conversion of empty premises into new homes.
  • Commitment to continuing the Right to Buy.
  • An Affordable Homes Programme worth £11.5 billion that aims to deliver up to 180,000 new homes, including half for affordable home ownership and half for affordable and social rent.
  • A ban on new leasehold houses (but not flats).
  • The Autumn Statement announced that Government is providing £3 million for a range of measures to improve the home buying and selling process, including pilots to develop property tech products and to digitise local council property data.
  • In the Spring Budget the Chancellor announced the end of stamp duty multiple dwellings relief along with an increase in the Right to Buy cap from 40% to 50%, and a £20 million boost in funding for community-led housing schemes.

Labour party logo


  • Planning reform to make building new homes easier, including making it easier to build on ‘grey belt’ land.
  • The construction of a series of new towns and 1.5 million homes over five years (300,000 per year) to buy and rent.
  • A ‘renters’ charter’ which will ban Section 21 evictions and provide more protections to renters.
  • Have said that rent controls will not be a national policy but that local authorities could be given the power to decide to bring these measures in at a local level. Several local leaders in the Party, including the mayors of London and Greater Manchester, have been in favour of forms of rent controls for some time.
  • Scrapping the ‘infrastructure levy’.
  • A generation of ‘new towns’ to help meet housing demand and the establishment of a ‘New Towns Code’ that will include a ‘gold standard target’ of 40% affordable homes, including a mix of social and council homes, robust design codes that fit in with nearby areas, high density housing with good links to town and city centres, and access to nature and parks.
  • Reform the Right to Buy to allow councils to keep more of their receipts, and a review of the discounts offered under the scheme.
  • Dropped commitment to abolish leasehold system within 100 days of government but still committed to substantial reform.
  • Extend ‘Awaab’s Law’, requiring social housing landlords to fix serious health hazards like damp and mould within set time limits, to the private rented sector.

Liberal Dem party logo

Liberal Democrats

  • At its Autumn 2023 conference, party members succeeded in defying the party leadership by voting to keep a national housebuilding target for England of 380,000 homes. The party leadership had proposed replacing this with “independently assessed” targets for local authorities, which are “appropriate for the specific areas’ needs”, saying that the Conservatives had shown that top-down targets don’t work.
  • The national target includes 150,000 new social homes a year, which would all be let at rents linked to local incomes rather than the current ‘affordable’ rent of 80% of market value.
  • A ‘fair deal’ for renters, including the abolition of Section 21 evictions.
  • 10 new garden cities to solve the housing crisis.
  • Abolition of the leasehold system.
  • Ensuring developers build appropriate infrastructure alongside new homes.

New ideas

Reforming planning policy is complex but an openness to fresh solutions is an opportunity for the private sector. There’s also increasing interest in ‘building beautiful’, to win over locals opposing development. If businesses can show their ideas deliver quality homes at low cost to the taxpayer – with infrastructure included – they might get a hearing.

Labour and the Lib Dems understand the opportunity – we need private cash to build the homes Britain needs. In its policy document setting out its manifesto plans, Labour said it would “encourage more private investment, properly regulated, in new supply” and “work with partners in local government, the housing industry and investors to unlock the patient, private capital ready to be unleashed into housebuilding”. Angela Rayner MP, Deputy Leader and Shadow Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, has been clear too – Labour will “back developers who deliver” and usher in a new era of private sector involvement in housing.

The fact is without private funding, solving the housing crisis will be an uphill struggle. Bringing in investment is the smart move. That means businesses servicing the sector can build support for their ideas if they’re able to get them in front of the right people.

That’s why we developed Integrated Intelligence. It’s our proven model that combines issues-raising public relations with targeted public affairs to generate public support for new ideas and solutions and bring them to the attention of ministers and policymakers.

If you’d like to talk public affairs and PR with us, get in touch.

Peter Davenport Screen

Written by Peter Davenport, Senior Strategic Consultant at Definition and Ed Jacobs, Director at The Public Affairs Company