As voters across England, Scotland and Wales prepare to go to the polls, we assess the key battlegrounds for housing
More than 2,000 council seats will be subject to elections across England, with a third of the seats in each authority available in the majority of cases.
The country’s largest stock owning local authority – Birmingham – is one of the main councils to watch, with Labour tipped to potentially take overall control from the current Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition. The council has been at the forefront of moves to restart local authority led housing development, and is also pushing ahead with plans to improve the energy efficiency of existing homes through its Birmingham Energy Savers initiative.
Cambridge is another local authority that takes a keen interest in housing where there could be a change of power. Here the Liberal Democrats could lose out to Labour, which recently failed to force through proposals on limiting houses in multiple occupation.
Other authorities to watch include Bradford and Sefton, where Labour could make gains, and Walsall, Plymouth and Southampton, where the Conservatives could lose overall control.
Affordable housing in Wales is a top priority for many councils: there are currently 91,000 households on social housing waiting lists. Around 280,000 homes are needed in Wales before 2026, and homelessness acceptances were up 15 per cent last year.
Cardiff, along with other heavily populated areas of south Wales, is likely to be a key battleground for housing. There are 10,200 people on the city’s waiting list, and 500 homeless households in temporary accommodation. There are also more than 1,500 long-term empty properties in the city.
In other parts of the country, the lack of affordable rural housing is a big issue.
In Scotland, the Scottish National Party wants to make gains in traditionally Labour-controlled Glasgow. The city has a lot of housing that is below standard, plus a huge waiting list. Whoever emerges as the leading party will have control when the city hosts the Commonwealth Games in 2014, and whatever legacy that leaves behind.
Elsewhere, Inverness desperately needs more affordable housing – the Highland Council is the biggest local authority area in Scotland. All councils are pushing towards achieving the 2012 homelessness target, which aims to categorise all homeless applicants as priority by the end of the year.
The race to be the next mayor of London is getting most attention, but there are also votes in Liverpool and Salford, and referendums on whether 10 cities should have a mayor: Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Coventry, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne, Nottingham, Sheffield and Wakefield.
For the housing sector, locally-elected mayors can act as a powerful voice, if they have the right priorities. Candidates for the Liverpool election include the chair of Plus Dane housing association Richard Kemp, and Liverpool Council leader Joe Anderson – both known champions of housing.
In London housing has become an increasingly important issue as the campaign has gone on. The main candidates - Boris Johnson, Ken Livingstone, Brian Paddick and Jenny Jones – have all promised to support affordable housing in the capital, although their methods differ.