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21 May 2014

Why are the Lib Dems so quiet about their housebuilding target?

The party's pledge to build 300,000 homes a year is barely known. 

By George Eaton

Labour’s pledge to build at least 200,000 homes a year by 2020 might sound ambitious (given that the current rate of building is just 112,630), but it’s still below the level regarded by housing experts as acceptable. A recent Policy Exchange report warned that the UK needs a minimum of 1.5 million new homes from 2015 to 2020 simply to meet need: 300,000 a year. With this in mind, the Lib Dems have formally adopted this target as party policy.

As Vince Cable told ITV News last night: “There is an enormous gap between what’s needed, which is probably 300,000 houses a year as my party is advocating, and what we’re currently getting, which is 125,000 to 130,000. We are way short on the housing supply which is needed.”

But while Ed Miliband rarely misses a chance to mention his housebuilding ambitions, how often have you heard Nick Clegg and other senior Lib Dems cite their party’s target? There is a pattern here. As The Staggers’ resident Lib Dem Richard Morris recently noted, the party is similarly quiet about its pledge to review tuition fees after the next general election (with a view to eventually abolishing them) and to reform the bedroom tax. 

It might be that the Lib Dems want to focus on their achievements in government (such as the increase in the tax threshold to £10,000, the pupil premium and ermm…) but to motivate activists and attract voters, the party also needs to talk more about what it wants to do after 2015. The Tories have used the European election campaign to highlight their EU referendum pledge and have previously signalled their intention to go further on immigration and welfare. But what would the Lib Dems do with another five years in power? They should tell us. 

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