Row over first-time buyer help as parties trade blows…

Labour and the Conservatives have accused each other of failing to match promises on housing, in what has become a key battleground in the election campaign.

The Conservatives said they were offering a better deal on stamp duty, by permanently abolishing the levy for first-time buyers purchasing properties up to £425,000.

Meanwhile, Labour said its more ambitious plans for energy efficiency in rental homes would protect tenants from higher energy bills.

Many people who have got in touch with the BBC via Your Voice, Your Vote said that housing was the most important issue for them during this election.

The threshold at which first-time buyers start paying stamp duty was temporarily raised from £300,000 to £425,000 until April next year.

The Conservatives have pledged to keep it at that level permanently and claim that by not matching their plan, first-time buyers under Labour would face a tax bill of up to £11,250.

Housing Secretary Michael Gove, who is not standing for re-election, said the Conservatives had a “clear plan” to help people get on to the housing ladder, and accused Labour of “hammering hundreds of thousands of first-time buyers with a massive stamp duty increase from next April”.

Labour have said they would keep the current stamp duty exemption for first-time buyers, but speaking on Thursday leader Sir Keir Starmer would not commit to extending it as proposed by the Conservative manifesto.

“In the Budget the government set out clearly its plan, that was costed, in relation to stamp duty and we will hold to that because it’s fully costed,” Sir Keir said.

He said the Conservatives’ proposal on stamp duty was “another example” of an unfunded commitment, which he would not follow.

Analysts point out that stamp duty is primarily paid by those buying larger homes, or in more expensive areas. Potential savings would not benefit everyone, as some would not need to pay it anyway.

According to the Office for National Statistics, the average house price for first-time buyers in Britain in April 2024 was £236,000, which would not be subject to any stamp duty.

Meanwhile, Labour has pledged swift action to protect renters, and claimed that tenants would be “better off” under them than under the Conservatives.

It said it would immediately ban no-fault evictions, something which the Conservatives have also pledged to eventually do after the government ran out of time to pass the relevant legislation ahead of the election.

Labour also said it would require all landlords to bring rental homes up to Energy Performance Certificate rating C by 2030, which it claims will save the average tenant £250 a year.

“This is a policy that the current government was committed to and then abandoned,” said Ed Miliband, shadow secretary for climate change and net zero.

“They abandoned a million renters and sold them down the river. These are people living in homes that are cold and damp. Labour is on their side and we will work with landlords to make sure this happens in a way that is good for renters.”

Such a policy would be a massive undertaking and questions remain over whether it is achievable, following concerns raised by charities over the quality of insulation fittings under government schemes.

But Mr Miliband said if Labour won the election the party would “make sure this money is well spent with proper regulations”.

Asked about the costs to landlords of making properties more energy efficient, Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “I don’t think this will be too significant for them… but what we can’t have is a situation where people are in homes that are damp, that are hazardous to health.

“A lot of landlords recognise that safe, warm homes are what we should be providing,” she added.