Labour will back housebuilders and first time buyers, Miliband to declare in major housing policy shake-up
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Communities, Development, Local Government
Committee and Miliband keen on national investment bank for social housing
A One Nation Labour Government will back housebuilders and first time buyers by tackling 'home blocker' councils and land hoarding developers, Ed Miliband is expected to declare today.
The Labour leader is set to warn that the shortage of new homes is part of sustained cost-of-living crisis for millions of families and a threat to Britain’s future prosperity, during a visit to Stevenage.
Miliband will launch the independent Housing Commission led by Michael Lyons, who has been asked to draw up a road map for increasing the supply of new homes in England to more than 200,000 a year by the end of the next parliament.
The party leader will commit the next Labour government to backing local authorities like Stevenage that want to build new homes – and condemn those like neighbouring North Hertfordshire Council that he claims "systematically block such development".
He will also reveal plans to legislate for towns like Stevenage to have a 'right to grow' as one of the key policies by which the next Labour government will begin to tackle housing shortages.
And he will announce that four Labour-controlled councils – Stevenage, Oxford, Luton and York – have signed up to become the first 'right to grow' local authorities.
However, in response to the announcement, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles has slammed Labour's record on housing.
Pickles said: "Under Labour, housebuilding fell to its lowest peacetime rate since the 1920s. Their top-down Regional Strategies and eco-towns failed hardworking families who aspired to own their own home, building nothing but resentment.
"That’s why we have worked with local communities to help build more homes, scrapping Regional Strategies and rewarding construction via the New Homes Bonus. We are helping hardworking people up the housing ladder through Help to Buy and the reinvigorated Right to Buy. Both first time buyers and housing construction have risen to their highest level since 2007, whilst repossessions have plummeted thanks to the lower interest rates from our long term economic plan.
"Labour’s policy shows this is the same old Labour party. They would allow Labour councils to forcibly rip up Green Belt protection in neighbouring councils. While their new tax on planning permission would reduce housebuilding and discourage regeneration schemes. We know there is more to do to help build homes. But this must be done by working with hardworking families in communities across Britain, allowing councils to shape where development should and shouldn’t go via Local Plans, and safeguarding important environmental protections."
Meanwhile, Housing Minister Kris Hopkins also laid into Labour's record. He said: "The last Labour government resolutely refused to support self-builders, punishing aspiration and undermining home ownership.
"But we have a long-term plan to help self-builders: cutting their taxes and asking councils to provide them with land. We are also working with mortgage lenders, and investing in self-build community groups.
"Labour need to say whether they support our moves to scrap taxes on self-builders. Otherwise, it is clear Labour want to punish self-builders with punitive taxes."
Today Miliband is expected to say: “I want to send a clear message today: we will tackle those councils that block homes, those developers that hoard land and this government that fails to act on the worst housing shortages for a generation. We will stand up for home builders and first time buyers. And take on those who stand in the way of working people and their children having the decent homes they deserve.
“David Cameron is presiding over the lowest levels of homes built in peacetime since the 1920s - and already families are suffering from some of the worst housing shortages for a generation. This is now part of a cost-of-living crisis for millions of people for whom the dream of home ownership is fading into the distance.
“The government has focused almost solely on increasing demand for housing and, while tinkering with planning rules, has done next-to-nothing to increase supply. The result is a broken market where it now takes ordinary families over 20 years to save enough for a deposit and those renting privately are paying as much as half their income on rent.
“At this time of year, when family is so important, there are parents who fear their children will never get a place of their own. And there are millions of young people who fear they may never be able to get on the housing ladder; never invite their parents round for Christmas dinner.
“At current rates we will be two million homes short of what Britain needs by 2020. If families are to prosper and our country is to succeed, Britain needs new homes. And the next Labour government will lead a non-stop drive to build them.
“Stevenage is a great community - an example of how successful new towns can be. But for decades now it has been waiting to be completed and for decades it has been thwarted by home blocking councils on its borders.
“But plans to build almost 10,000 desperately-needed homes on the edge of this town have been blocked every single step of the way by North Hertfordshire Council, even though that would take the pressure off other areas in the county.
“There have been consultations galore, planning permission granted and lengthy appeals. The only winners have been lawyers, on whom Stevenage has had to spend more than £500,000 since 2001 on this issue alone.
“North Herts Council is a home blocking council. It is bad for its neighbours, bad for its own residents where the housing waiting list has got ever longer, and bad for those who wish to protect their market towns from over-development
“This is a stick-in-the-mud council. But a Labour government will not let desperately needed housing be stuck in the mud of North Hertfordshire.
“There are other examples across the country where proposals from successful towns and cities - like Luton and Oxford - have been blocked by neighbouring councils.
“Of course it is right that local communities have a say about where housing goes. But councils cannot be allowed to frustrate continually the efforts of others councils to get homes built. So the next Labour government will unblock this planning process and unlock the potential to build tens of thousands of new homes where they are needed.”
“Profits for our four biggest housing developers are going through the roof. They have soared 557% since this Government took office - even though homes have been built at their slowest rate witnessed in peacetime for almost a century.
“But there are large amounts of land – enough to build more than a million homes - earmarked for houses which have not been built. Developers need a bank of land with which to work. But sometimes they, and other landowners, are hoarding it.
“The next Labour government will give councils powers to charge fees or, if necessary, purchase such land, so that developers have an incentive to do what they went into business to do. We will back home builders. But we will tell land hoarders with sites that have planning permission that they must use it or lose it.”