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Labour Has An "Ambitious" But "Pragmatic" Vision On Housing

Angela Rayner (Alamy)

3 min read

Labour leadership is pitching an "ambitious" but "pragmatic" housebuilding policy at its conference in Liverpool this year, where the issue has been woven through a number of shadow ministers' offerings.

Labour leader Keir Starmer told the BBC on Sunday that his party would oversee 1.5million homes being built across Britain in its first five years in office. He added that the UK must “get real about where we’re going to build” to fix the housing crisis.

It is expected that the party will announce further detail on housing in the next 24 hours.

Shadow Levelling-up Secretary Angela Rayner has said a future Labour government would oversee the biggest increase in affordable housing in a generation.

Rayner added the party will strengthen rules to stop developers from building too few homes and will speed up the construction of affordable homes.

A housing source told PoliticsHome Labour’s plan was “ambitious” as housebuilding had continued to fall within the last year.

Shadow Housing Secretary Matthew Pennycook told a fringe event at Labour Party Conference he expected the party to flesh out more of its housing policy further before the conference ends on Wednesday.

At one event Pennycook said the housing crisis had begun to intensify across the country and claimed it had become an "emergency" in big cities such as London. 

“I think central to the problem that's built up over many decades, is a shortage of affordable homes, and a chronic shortage of genuinely affordable social rented homes,” he said.

The Shadow Housing Secretary said Labour’s policy of building 1.5million homes in its first five years – which is equivalent to 300,000 homes per year – was “stretching” and "bold" while also being “realistic” and "pragmatic".

Research from Centre for Cities, a think tank, found if a future Government build 300,000 homes a year it would only plug the housing deficit after half a century. To meet the current demand the Government could build 442,000 homes per year to meet it.

PoliticsHome asked Pennycook whether Labour would target boosting more housebuilding in cities such as London. 

To meet the “bold” target, the Shadow Housing Secretary said a future Labour Government would build more homes in cities while also committing to a Brownfield first approach, whereby the party would prioritise building on land which has already been built on in the past.

“You cannot meet housing demand and housing need in this country on brownfield alone, we're going to have to look at strategically releasing bits of Greenbelt,” he said.

Pennycook said a future Labour Government could enter office while housebuilding rates within the country would be incredibly "suppressed" in a year's time – when a general election could be fought. 

The shadow minister reiterated the Party’s commitment to bring back mandatory housing targets, which he said will be at the “heart” of its housebuilding policy. 

He also attempted to strike a pragmatic tone on housing, where he claimed that most people will want development if it is done correctly. 

Pennycook also said he believed that the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) vs YIMBY (Yes In My Back Yard) debate was "reductive" and "incredibly unhelpful". 

“There will always be a core of people that don't want any development anywhere near them. But there is a far larger group of people, in my experience, who will have development, if it’s got good infrastructure... [and is] good at placemaking,” he said.

“I think, it’s essentially we’ve got to change the conversations… about what boosted supply means for communities and give them a better reason to get behind development,” he added.

Pennycook also said Labour was not in favour of seeing a "revolution" in the planning system and tipping the "whole thing up". He said he was more concerned about making "very carefully targeted tweaks" to make Britain's housebuilding sector work more effectively.

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