Housing for Many: Labour’s plans to shake up housebuilding

April 19, 2018 / Isla MacFarlane
Housing for Many: Labour’s plans to shake up housebuilding

Conservative housing policy is the wrong answer to the wrong question, John Healey, Labour MP and the Shadow Secretary for Housing, claims.

In its new green paper, Housing for the Many, Labour promises to transform the planning system and end the “viability” loophole so that commercial developers aren’t let off the hook; giving councils new powers to acquire land to build on and better use land the public already owns; and the financial backing to actually deliver, which means the ability to borrow to build restored to all councils; and extra support from central government too.

Over 10 years, Labour claims that big policy, financing, planning and legal changes will be required to establish a housing system fit to deliver these aims. Labour proposes to:

  • Define anew ‘affordable housing’ as linked to local income, and scrap the Conservatives’ so-called ‘affordable rent’ homes priced at up to 80% of market rates;
  • Stop the sell-off of 50,000 social rented homes a year by suspending the right to buy, ending all conversions to ‘affordable rent’ and scrapping the Government’s plans to force councils to sell the best of their homes;
  • Back councils and housing associations with new funding, powers and flexibilities to build again at scale;
  • Transform the planning system with a new duty to deliver affordable homes, an English Sovereign Land Trust to make more land available more cheaply and an end to the ‘viability’ loophole that lets developers dodge their contribution to more affordable homes;
  • Make safe homes for all the very highest priority with sprinklers fitted in high-rise blocksand fire safety the first standard in a new Decent Homes 2 programme;
  • End any institutional indifference or failure to respect tenants with new rights for affordable housing residents, including tenants on boards, consumer rights standards and a vote on estate regeneration schemes;
  • Help make affordable homes a best choice not a last resort with new leading-edge standards on energy efficiency, design and smart tech;
  • Promote security for families and stability for communities by scrapping the Government’s legislation to end long-term council tenancies.

“Ministers talk big about total housebuilding targets, to be reached sometime in the next decade,” Healey said. “But what new homes we build, and who they’re for, matter as much as how many. That’s why eight in ten people think Ministers should be doing more to get affordable housing built.

“Simply building more market price homes isn’t enough to help many of those faced with the cost of housing crisis because this is only likely to influence prices over the long-term. We have to build more affordable homes to make homes more affordable.”

Labour’s Green Paper – Housing for the Many – sets out they party’s framework plan to change the country’s approach to affordable housing.

‘Housing for the many’ will be Labour’s lodestar, as it promises to launch the biggest council housebuilding programme for over 30 years and get more than 100,000 new genuinely affordable homes built each year – a level not recorded since 1978.

Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour Party, said, “Today, Labour set out our plan to turn this around and it involves two simple steps: build enough housing and make sure that housing is affordable to those who need it.

“That’s why we have promised today that the next Labour Government will deliver one million genuinely affordable homes over ten years, the majority of which will be for social rent.

“And that we will dismiss the Tories farcical definition of affordable housing for the sham that it is, replacing it with a definition that understands that whether housing is affordable or not depends on how much people earn, not how much speculators have flooded property markets.”

The Labour leader acknowledges that this will not be easy. “We know by now that we cannot rely on arms-length incentives for private housebuilders, building for profit to solve the crisis,” he said. “As they themselves openly acknowledge, it is simply not profitable for them to build houses for the less well-off. We need to do it ourselves.”

Fifty years ago, local authorities were responsible for nearly half of all new housing completions. Nowadays it is just 2%.

“To turn this around will require radical measures to properly fund, empower, and support councils to deliver affordable housing for all,” Corbyn said.

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