Emma Reynolds MP: Labour needs a relentless focus on increasing the supply of homes
The next Labour government needs to focus all of its energy on solving the problems which are holding back the supply of new homes, says Emma Reynolds MP.
Housing has been rising up the political agenda in recent years but the housing crisis is decades in the making. For too long the housing market has not delivered the new homes that we need. This market failure has created major fault lines in British politics between home-owners and renters, between young and old and between first-time buyers and buy-to-let landlords.
We have not built enough homes for decades and this undersupply has driven house prices out of reach for many young people who want to get on the housing ladder and many families who want to upsize. As a result, home ownership is at a 30-year low and 1 in 4 young people, aged 20 to 34, are still living with their parents. House prices have risen by over 75% since 1995, meaning the average home now costs almost eight times the average annual salary.
The Tory government is focusing on policies that it deems popular with the electorate, such as Help to Buy and Right to Buy, but these policies exacerbate the problem by stoking demand, pushing up prices further out of reach and depriving people of social housing.
Labour needs a relentless focus on increasing the supply of homes across all tenures with plans to build more Council homes and more homes for first time buyers, families who want to upsize and older people who want to downsize.
I recommend that the Labour Party puts forward five key policies.
- Stop Help to Buy which is simply pushing up prices and stoking demand. According to recent research, 1 in 5 households have used it to upsize rather than get on the housing ladder.
- Impose a moratorium on Right to Buy until we replace all the homes which have been sold off. We have lost over half of council homes since its introduction. Give councils the freedom to borrow against their assets without the artificial cap that still currently exists in many areas so that they can build more social housing.
- Shake up the land market to stop speculation pushing up the price of land, help small builders so that they can compete better against the big housebuilders and give councils “use it or lose it” powers to prevent builders and developers from sitting on land.
- Give private sector tenants better rights, more security with longer tenancies and enforce higher standards.
- Tackle homelessness and rough sleeping by giving local authorities the funding they need to support people with addiction and mental health problems
There are no quick or simple solutions to the housing crisis. Policies that appear to be an easy sell on the doorstep while campaigning often make the problem worse by stoking demand and further inflating prices. The next Labour government needs to focus all of its energy on solving the problems which are holding back the supply of new homes. Britain’s housing crisis will take some time to correct but it is not beyond the power of government. Future generations depend on it.
Emma Reynolds is Labour MP for Wolverhampton North East
PoliticsHome Member, National Federation of Builders have responded to Emma Reynolds MP, urging the MP for Wolverhampton North East and the Labour Party more generally to think about the root cause suppressing the supply of new homes. Read the full response here