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Ukip cannot provide affordable housing with brownfield land alone

Joe Wright, 17 December 2014

Housing is one of the most important issues facing the voters when they go to the polls in May. As Ukip continues to maintain a steady 15% in polls, pressure is mounting to provide answers to issues outside Britain’s relationship with the EU. Last month, Nigel Farage came under scrutiny about the party’s NHS position, struggling to distance himself from past quotes about privatisation. The same problem awaits them on housing.

Ukip have a ready diagnosis for why the UK fails to provide affordable homes: a boom in population caused by immigration. Too much competition for too few homes. Regardless of how true the position is, it offers few solutions. Even if the UK were to ‘regain control of its borders’, the housing crisis would remain: in-migration (people moving within the UK) to desirable areas like London is a greater cause of house price inflation than immigration itself.

Ukip’s first stated aim is to use only brownfield land for development. They aim to create a database for developers listing all such sites. However, brownfield land is so-called because it is either located in places no wants to live – places without infrastructure or jobs – or the land is too expensive to decontaminate and develop. There are ways to bring a few sites into use, but to believe brownfield land alone can supply the UK with homes, schools and jobs is mindless or wilfully misleading.

The campaign-piece of Ukips’s housing policy is a pledge to eradicate homelessness among veterans. There are 20,000 ex-servicemen sleeping rough according to Andrew Charalambous, the Ukip housing spokesman (and commercial landlord). It is shameful if this is the case, and more needs to be done to change it, but to make it the title policy of Ukip’s housing manifesto only betrays the blank pages beyond.

It is policy areas like housing that Ukip’s coalition between Left and Right protest votes shows its fragility. On the one hand, affordable housing will be of increasing importance if Ukip is to retain the working class vote gained from Labour. On the other, protecting rural areas from ‘development’ is a core issue for Ukip’s Right. Scaremongering about construction sites, or worse, windfarms, has long provided Ukip with a solid vote base in areas of the countryside. Ukip’s housing slogan, ‘Vote purple, keep Britain green’, is a pledge to do nothing for now.

All main parties are guilty of dishonesty where housing is concerned. Also, developing parties need time to define themselves on issues on which they have no natural position. As with the Liberal Democrat tuition fee pledge, this policy smacks of politics. It is only for votes – something that can be negotiated in coalition.

But, after the 2010 sham manifesto, dubbed ‘drivel’ by Nigel Farage, how much longer can Ukip play fast and loose with their credibility?

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