Draft policy platform shows party wants ‘more high quality and affordable homes’ if elected to government
The Labour Party will look to repurpose the government’s housing quango, Homes England, as part of its bid to get more private and affordable homes built if elected to government next year.
The proposal forms part of a draft policy prospectus circulated within the Labour party in the last week that is set to form the basis of its manifesto going in to the next election, which must be before the end of next year.
The draft policy platform, a summary of which has been published by Labour Party website Labour List, goes beyond the measures revealed by the Party in its housing announcements made ahead of the local elections last week, with pledges to “fix the country’s development model” and “enable local authorities to acquire land at closer to existing use value”.
However, the proposals will need to be agreed by the Party’s National Policy Forum and be subject to votes at its annual conference prior to a final approval meeting to agree the ultimate manifesto text.
The summary says Labour will “seek to repurpose and reform Homes England to better meet our emerging priorities”, priorities which include – as revealed last week – a 70% homeownership target, plus “build[ing] more high-quality homes across the country and ensur[ing] more of these are genuinely affordable”.
The document also pledges and end the leasehold tenure, amid reports in the last few days that the government has backtracked on its own pledge to end the leasehold system.
As well as repeating last week’s promises for support for first time buyers, mortgage guarantees and help for renters, the document also promises “measures to redistribute demand away from those looking to purely speculate on house prices”.
It adds that Labour in government will “Reform planning and arcane land purchase rules to get Britain building, while fixing the country’s development model”, without making clear how this will be achieved. It doesn’t say how Homes England, which manages the affordable homes programme and Help to Buy and was born out of the Homes and Communities Agency set up by Labour from former regeneration agency English Partnerships, would be reformed.
In addition the summary promises to promote a new wave of development corporations and powers to metro mayors to promote strategic development. (See full list below).
Chris Rumfitt, founder of public affairs firm Field Consulting welcomed the document, though he said the policies were “inevitably high-level and aspirational” given the stage in the political cycle. He said: “The good news is that housing policy is at least a clear high priority for Labour who were guilty of not giving it enough focus when they were last in government.
“There is also a renewed focus on home ownership, which is not a subject Labour has discussed much in the last decade - despite being the aspiration of most voters.
“The key challenge for Labour though, should they enter government next year, will be on getting house-building numbers up to the levels we need despite the difficult economic climate. That needs political courage to face down the Nimbys and it needs policy support for all tenures.”
He added that it was “very unclear” what the Homes England repurposing would be designed to achieve.
Paul Smith, MD of land promoter Strategic Land Group, said Labour’s focus on the housing supply crisis was “certainly good news”, with the focus on home ownership “particularly notable, and a departure from where Labour have been in recent years on housing issues”.
However, he said there was more detail on the demand-side measures which they hoped to introduce such as the mortgage guarantee scheme and less on the supply-side reforms to ensure more new homes are actually planned for and built. He said: “That’s perhaps not a surprise, it is easier to get support for demand-side measures, and there’s still plenty of time for Labour to flesh this out with specific policies, though. Overall, the proposals seem to be heading in the right direction.
He added: “The last 18 months have shown how the emotiveness of housing policy can make it easy to get blown off course when the detail of supply-side reforms is revealed. The real challenge for Labour will be actually making it happen.”
Labour Draft Policy Platform: Housing proposals
Boost homeownership and housebuilding
- Set the target of a homeownership rate of 70 per cent
- Help first-time buyers onto the ladder with a new, comprehensive mortgage guarantee scheme. Under this scheme, the state will act as guarantor for prospective homeowners who can afford mortgage repayments but struggle to save for a large deposit
- Give first-time buyers first dibs on new developments in their area
- Build more high-quality homes across the country and ensure more of these are genuinely affordable
- Bring the present leasehold system to an end through fundamental reform of the tenure and to enacting legislation to that end as soon as possible
- Accompany support for first-time buyers with measures to redistribute demand away from those looking to purely speculate on house prices
- Raise stamp duty paid by foreign individuals, trusts and companies when they buy UK residential property
- Reform planning and arcane land purchase rules to get Britain building, while fixing the country’s development model
- Enable local authorities to acquire land at closer to existing use value
- Spur the creation of a new generation of development corporations, spearheaded by and accountable to communities. These new bodies will allow local leaders, working with trade unions, to play a more active role in development in their areas
- Allow local authorities, Metro Mayors, combined authorities or groups of local authorities to pioneer new models of strategic development for larger sites
- Seek to decrease the number of social homes being rapidly sold off through right to buy without like-for-like new social housing being built to replace them
- Seek to repurpose and reform Homes England to better meet our emerging priorities
Support private renters
- Fundamentally reform the private rented sector, giving tenants greater security through a powerful new renters’ charter, which will include longer-term tenancies as standard, the right to reasonable alterations, ending Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions and introducing a national register of landlords
- Introduce a legally binding ‘Decent Homes Standard 2’ updated for the next decade that will apply to all buildings in the private rented sector
- Consult on how best to ensure tenancies are affordable and the effective implementation of no-fault evictions.