After nine years of failure, we need a Labour government to fix the housing crisis
A Labour government will make delivering ambitious housing plans a priority with our bold agenda for change, writes John Healey MP
Writing in 1942, William Beveridge famously set out “five giants” on the road to a better society: want, disease, ignorance, idleness and squalor. To end squalor meant decent housing. With the post-war Attlee government, housing became a priority for rebuilding Britain. The number of new council houses rose dramatically as Britain got building again at scale and to a high standard. Labour minister Aneurin Bevan fought for extra investment to build the sort of homes that were too often then the preserve of the rich – decent, spacious, with upstairs toilets and built in local brick or stone.
More than 70 years on, that same scale of ambition is needed.
Last year, Jeremy Corbyn and I set out Labour’s big commitment in government to build one million genuinely affordable homes over 10 years, with the biggest council housebuilding programme in nearly 40 years at the heart of this. In the past, this scale of ambition was seen as common sense. Labour will show that it still makes sense.
When it comes to housing, the very word “affordable” has been corrupted through misuse by Conservative ministers. So, alongside new social rented homes, we will scrap their bogus “affordable rent” – up to 80% of market rates which can mean £1,500 a month in some areas – and replace it with Labour’s affordable homes both to rent and buy with the costs linked to incomes not the market. We’ll also stop the sell-off of social rented homes by suspending the right-to-buy scheme and ending all conversions to “affordable rent”.
Building on these plans, earlier this year I announced that Labour will scrap the developer get-out clause which sees offices turned into homes without any planning oversight, and which has led to the loss of an estimated 10,000 affordable homes.
At least year’s Conference in Liverpool, I was pleased to announce that the next Labour government would provide seed funding for renters’ unions to give tenants powers to fight rogue landlords. In March, I set out Labour’s commitment to indefinite tenancies for private renters, with controls on rents to put a brake on rip-off rent rises.
I also announced at Conference last year our plans for a new Labour levy on second homes used as holiday homes, to help fund our commitment to end rough sleeping within the first term of a Labour government. At Christmas, I set out how Labour would use part of these funds to expand emergency winter accommodation for those sleeping on the streets, to save lives during the cold weather.
To help home-owners who own their property on a leasehold basis and are getting fleeced by unscrupulous developers or freeholders, this summer we’ve published radical Labour plans to end leasehold for good and we’d welcome views from Labour members and the public.
Labour’s plans on housing add up to a bold agenda for change. After nine years of failure on housing, it’s clear the Tories have no plan to fix the housing crisis. Homelessness is up, home-ownership for young people is down, renters are under increasing pressure, and the level of genuinely affordable housebuilding is at a near-record low.
Our country can no longer afford the Conservatives. To fix the housing crisis, Britain needs a Labour government.
John Healey is Labour MP for Wentworth & Dearne and shadow housing secretary