Labour Manifesto – The Housing Stuff

Rebekah Paczek

Quote of the Day:

“The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter”
Winston Churchill

The Labour Manifesto – Housing the Population

It is easy to forget amongst the circus parade that is a General Election in the UK, that there are actual people going to form an actual government (well, maybe) with real policies which have the potential to change lives – whether to a greater or lesser extent.

Two manifestos published, one to go and no clarity on when the Conservative manifesto might actually be published.

Labour led the headlines this morning with a commitment to deliver 150,000 homes a year, but there is much more than this within the detail of the manifesto itself. Most excitingly, Labour commit to actually having a Department for Housing, with a Secretary of State responsible for housing as a singular department – although, clearly the department will need to talk to whoever runs the planning department to make sure that housing and planning work in harmony…

Obviously greenbelt remains sacrosanct and there is a brownfield first policy. Interestingly, despite earlier noises, the intention is to reform, but not abolish, Help to Buy with it repurposed to focus on lower incomes – Labour under John McDonnell (yes, I do mean John McDonnell not Corbyn) are nothing if not pragmatic.

In summary, Labour commit to:

  • A new Department for Housing
  • 150,000 council and social homes a year with 100,000 built by councils for social rent, combined with the abolition of the 80% of market rent affordable category to be replaced with rents pegged to local incomes
  • A new English Sovereign Land Trust ‘with power to buy land more cheaply’…
  • Using public land to build low cost housing
  • Use it or lose it tax on consented schemes
  • Keeping the Land Registry in public hands
  • Revising planning guidance on flooding
  • Ensuring all new build homes are zero carbon
  • £1bn fire safety fund
  • Abolition of PDR
  • Abolition of Right to Buy along with giving local authorities the power to buy back homes from private landlords
  • Reform of help to buy to focus on first time buyers on ‘ordinary incomes’
  • Greater protection for private renters
  • Significant funding to reduce homelessness

This has been resoundingly welcomed by housing organisations. It is interesting that there is a clear effort to balance the need for social housing with the market and private sector. Other than a reference to land (no mention of a land value capture tax), the focus is very much on government spending rather than pointing the finger solely at the housebuilding sector. There is, obviously, a difference between election promises and real promises – for example, where will local authorities find the employees and the skills to build 100,000 Council homes per year? Particularly if freedom of movement is abolished? But then, perhaps we shouldn’t let the minor points such as delivery get in the way of what are, genuinely, strong proposals.

Clearly, the housing policies go hand in hand with the overall approach to policy, the economy, social welfare and taxation which is focused very much on addressing policy at those who have felt left behind by successive governments – in particular, those working families who remain reliant on benefits, food banks and substandard public services. At an early stage in a Labour Government there will be a review of corporate taxes and, specifically, corporate tax reliefs.

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