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Letter from the Publisher - The election countdown beginsAs parliament is dissolved and the 2015 general election campaign enters its final (and most important) phase, Estate Agent Today takes a look at what the main political parties have to say about one of the key concerns for much of the electorate and, indeed, our industry - housing.

No party is anticipated to achieve enough seats for a majority, so another coalition seems likely. This means that some of the smaller parties could have a major say in who makes it into government. But what do their manifestos propose

This week we're focusing on the two main parties, plus some timely surveys that have come out in the last few days revealing what a selection of landlords and letting agents think about the upcoming election. In two weeks' time we will be analysing the five challenger parties - Greens, SNP, Plaid Cymru, UKIP and the Liberal Democrats - to see how seriously they are taking housing.

Conservatives

Housing Minister - Brandon Lewis

Homes for All' is the tagline for the Conservative's housing manifesto. They argue that Margaret Thatcher's legacy of increasing home ownership is being undone as the amount of owner occupied homes steadily decreases.

What they propose

Pro-ownership planning - where the state should actively favour home ownership over professional property investment.

Starter homes - First-time buyers in England who are under the age of 40 would be allowed to buy a house at 20% below the market rate, with 100,000 starter homes to be built for this purpose.

New paths to ownership - the Tories are also calling for more direct government action to increase home ownership, in the same way Margaret Thatcher did with Right to Buy. They plan to scrap all mortgage subsidies - including their flagship Help to Buy Scheme - to prevent house prices being pushed up further. The long-term aim is to switch the multi-billion pound flow of housing benefit money from the private rented sector to ownership-enabling social housing.'

A community-led planning system - there to deliver, not obstruct, and with a focus on what the community wants rather than what the developers want.'

The creation of new garden cities for the 21st century - helping to provide new jobs and homes as well as relieving the development pressure on existing communities.

The Conservative Party's full housing manifesto can be viewed here.

Labour

Shadow Housing Minister - Emma Reynolds

More homes' is the sparse and simple message from the Labour Party. They say that the current lack of supply is directly related to the cost-of-living crisis'. Labour argues that it takes an average family 22 years to save for a deposit, while the 9 million people renting in the Private Rented Sector (PRS) are seeing rent payments rising faster than wages.

What they propose

200,000 new homes built a year by 2020 - helping to narrow the gap between the number of homes built and the number of homes required, as well as providing a significant number of new jobs in the construction industry.

A new generation of New Towns and Garden Cities - Labour also pledge to provide a new right to grow' to communities who wish to expand but are blocked by neighbouring local authorities.

No more empty homes - Ed Miliband's party will tackle the issue of empty homes by giving councils more power to charge higher rates of council tax on empty properties', as well as ensuring that homes are advertised in the UK first, rather than overseas.

Providing local authorities with use it or lose it' powers - to stop developers from hoarding land with planning permission so they can make more profit from it a later date.

Abolish the so-called bedroom tax - Labour will scrap the controversial measure, claiming it is cruel, unfair and inefficient.

Introduce a mansion tax - properties over the £2m threshold would be subject to an annual charge.

Cap rent increases in the private sector and scrap letting fees to estate agents - this, Labour say, will help to give a fairer deal' to tenants.

Labour's full housing manifesto can be viewed here.

What the property industry thinks

A considerable majority (seven in ten) of ARLA letting agents recently surveyed by the Association said they are strongly opposed to Labour's plans to introduce three-year tenancy agreements with rent controls and stringent rules to make it more difficult to evict tenants.

Many said this move would only lead to landlords withdrawing from the market, triggering a reduction in the supply of rental property and causing more trouble than its worth for the industry.

As for addressing the very key issue of the housing shortage, 37% of ARLA agents surveyed think that the Tory policy of building 200,000 new starter homes would be the best way forward, whereas only 11% of agents believe that Labour's pledge to increase house building rates to 200,000 a year by 2020 would be more advantageous to the industry.

A further third (35%) were cynical about any new changes, of the opinion that neither policy would help the PRS.

Landlords, too, are not enamoured with the prospect of an Ed Miliband-led Labour government, with 45% of them surveyed by online letting agent Rentify planning to vote for the Conservatives on May 7. Described as being like electoral kryptonite' by one respondent, Miliband's personal approval rating has plunged to 16% among UK landlords, below even UKIP leader Nigel Farage.

Nearly half of respondents to Rentify's study said they were planning to back the Tories. Despite the two parties being neck and neck in the polls, with YouGov placing Labour ahead by a couple of percentage points, it appears Miliband's highly vocal stance on housing, and the PRS in particular, has not gone down well with this area of the property industry.

Next time we will be looking at the housing policies of the five challenger parties.

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