Birmingham City Council seats are up for grabs this week as parties spend their last few days of campaigning. With The Bureau of Investigative Journalism releasing reports on homeless deaths during the winter amid an ongoing housing crisis, we reached Birmingham’s political parties and poured into their literature to find out what they are proposing to address those and other housing issues.
Labour housing plans in Birmingham: rogue landlords, affordable homes and increased enforcement
At a national level the Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government launched a new rogue landlords database on April 6, which will inform councils of landlords that have received a banning order following serious offences.
But in Birmingham Labour, which currently has majority control of the council, plans to set up a register of approved landlords in the private rented sector and make it public.
In their manifesto, the majority party pledges to deliver over 2,000 new houses through the Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust and InReach, of which 1,100 will be for rent.
It wishes to build “more affordable homes and homes for social rent”.
The party also intends to introduce “increased enforcement and licensing in the private rented sector to improve standards”.
It also guarantees that there will “continue to be sufficient bed spaces in shelters for everyone who needs one”.
A Labour council in Birmingham, it says, will introduce a “Charter of Rights for every citizen facing problems with homelessness”.
Lastly, it will be lobbying the national government to create a national funding pot for Domestic Violence Refuges.
Conservative housing plans in Birmingham: tower block disposals, executive houses and brownfield building
The local Tories boldly proposed to shave the city of all of its council-owned high rise tower blocks within ten years – or “dispose” of them.
The tenants will be offered places in new nearby properties, in a way that would keep the communities together in the original neighbourhood.
In an email exchange, as well as in their recently released manifesto, the party also pledges to oversee the building of “at least 3,000 new homes a year by 2022”.
Veterans will be given priority when applying for council housing.
But the party also intends to “build more executive houses to retain economically active residents in Birmingham”. The resulting increase of the Council Tax base would then “help to fund and protect frontline services for vulnerable citizens”.
Brownfield sites will be prioritised over the green belt when building new homes. More conservation areas would receive a green light.
The proliferation of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) will be halted, the Conservatives say, with the plan being to reconvert them to family housing where possible.
As for problematic landlords, the Tories would introduce “a Social Landlord Charter to raise standards and ensure proper maintenance in the rented sector”.
The party will support the Right to Buy of council and Housing Association properties.
They also plan to scrap the current parking policy, “which prevents developers providing adequate parking at new developments”.
Liberal Democrat housing plans: homeless counts, improved temporary accommodation, extend selective licensing
On rough sleeping and homelessness, the Liberal Democrats are proposing, in their manifesto, to “conduct a proper count of rough sleepers”, as well as working with charities and outreach team to ensure continuous “adequate overnight accommodation”.
The party is also proposing to implement a Housing First policy across the city, with which rough sleepers would be offered a home as well as support to tackle the causes of their situation and helping them become self-sufficient.
The current housing policies would also be reformed to improve the standards of temporary accommodations and reduce the reliance on out-of-town or substandard rooms.
The party also aims to increase the current out-of-hours provision to provide more support and extend support to areas out of the city centre.
The Liberal Democrats would not “stop the proliferation” of HMOs, but would call for a “better and proper regulation” of them.
With regards to private renting, the party would seek to extend selective licensing to more than 20% of the city, “ultimately covering the whole city”.
As with the building of new homes, the party would maintain and support investment in municipal housing, show a preference for the use of brownfield land, and prioritise investment for the increased energy efficiency of existing homes “to reduce tenants bills and cut carbon emissions”.
Green Party housing plans: support for renters, insulation retro-fitting, large scale homebuilding
“Housing in Birmingham is in crisis”, a spokesperson for the party says in an email conversation.
Along with a commitment to end street sleeping and solve the crisis of hidden homelessness, the party aims to “provide dedicated, centralised support for renters to combat the problem of irresponsible landlords”.
The Greens would also take steps to “restart large scale local authority home building, with a focus on quality social housing”.
Furthermore, they would encourage retro-fitting of existing housing with insulation and ensure new buildings meet the highest environmental standards.
The party also wants to involve surrounding local communities for every new area that is subject to regeneration.
People Power Birmingham: ‘People’s Parliaments’ to inform policy
As another kind of political party, the organisation, contacted by Birmingham Eastside, insists on having “no stances on the level of policy, other than a commitment to institutional reform in line with our ideals for an open, accessible and participatory democratic culture.”
In other words, the party would consult the communities before proposing any position or project, in a bottom-up fashion. “We don’t advocate any policies in areas such as housing.”
“We would hold ‘People’s Parliaments’ in neighbourhoods to hear what the ordinary people of Birmingham feel at the moment, educate them on the details and perhaps work towards consensus.”