After seven years, it’s clear Tory Ministers have no plan to fix the country’s housing crisis.
Theresa May only offers another five years of the same, with her manifesto confirming that on housing it’s ‘carry on Conservatives’. There are no new plans or new investment and there is no serious attempt to fix what Ministers now admit is a ‘broken’ housing market.
In fact many of the decisions that the Conservatives have made on housing since 2010 are making the problems worse.
They’ve withdrawn from building new affordable homes so the number has fallen to the lowest level in 24 years. They’ve done too little for first-time buyers on ordinary incomes so home-ownership has fallen to a thirty-year low.
They’ve stripped away protections for people who need help with housing, so shockingly the number of people sleeping rough on our streets has more than doubled. They’ve cut investment and outsourced responsibility for building new homes to big developers, so since 2010 fewer new homes have been built on average than under any governing party in peacetime since the 1920s.
We can’t go on like this. We need to draw a line under the failings of the past seven years, and the shortcomings of the last forty years. In short, on housing we need a New Deal between the people of this country and a new government.
That’s what Labour offers. We’ll start by setting up a fully-fledged new Department for Housing for the first time to spearhead our new deal on housing and tackle the housing crisis.
We’ll do more on housebuilding with at least a million new homes over the next Parliament, and 100,000 genuinely affordable homes to rent and buy a year by the final year of the next Parliament, including a new era of council housebuilding with the biggest programme in more than 30 years.
We’ll back first-time buyers with ‘first dibs’ on new homes built in your area, build 100,000 new discounted FirstBuy Homes linked to local average incomes and offer first time buyers two years free of stamp duty.
And we’ll deal with the most damning failure of the last seven years of failure on housing – rapidly escalating rough sleeping, which shames us all in a country as decent and well-off as ours. We will launch a new national mission and plan to end rough sleeping within the next Parliament, with action to tackle the root causes of rising homelessness.
Private landlords are vital partners in our mission to tackle the housing crisis. I’ll work with you to make your sector an even better place to live, just as I did as Housing Minister in government. Most tenants are happy with their rented housing, but we know there’s still more to do.
The big difference between now and when I was Labour’s last Housing Minister in 2009/10 is the number of private renting households – up a third to 4.5 million in just seven years. Increasingly now it’s not just single people or students that rent but families, and in England one in four families with children now rent from a private landlord.
We need to make sure that the rules keep up with these changes in how we live. The facts are that private rented homes are often less stable, more expensive, and in poorer condition than other types of housing. And there are still rogues that give the whole sector a bad name.
A Labour government will act. We’ll make three-year tenancies the norm with an inflation cap on rent rises. Landlords and tenants still able to negotiate rents at the start of a tenancy as at present. And we’ll look at whether current rules can be improved to ensure landlords are able to remove anti-social tenants that make life a misery for property owners and for neighbours.
We’ll drive up standards by giving councils the powers they need to crack down on the worst of the 1.3 million privately rented homes in England which would fail the decent home standard, and give tenants new consumer rights to act independently of councils to root out rogues.
Together these plans add up to a bold plan to shift the housing market in favour of those on ordinary incomes: a New Deal on housing with Labour.