Housing

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:54 pm on 9th April 2019.

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Photo of John Healey John Healey Shadow Secretary of State for Housing 5:54 pm, 9th April 2019

It is the most obvious sign of a broken market, when house builders are making bumper profits and bumper bonuses building homes that ordinary workers cannot afford to buy. These are the fundamental facts. These are the hard truths about the Conservatives’ record on housing, which Ministers cannot deny or disguise, and which, come the next election, the Conservative party will not be able to dodge.

Given that record over nine years, it is little wonder that, when asked, three in four people say that they believe the country has a housing crisis. They are right, of course. Everybody knows someone who cannot get the home they need or desire. They say that the crisis is getting worse, not better, and they are right. Even many Conservatives have lost faith in the free market fundamentalism about housing, because it is failing on all fronts. That is why the Conservatives have been losing the argument and have been forced to cede ground to Labour, from legislating to outlaw letting fees, to banning combustible cladding on high-rise blocks and lifting the cap on council borrowing to build new homes.

However, those are baby steps. The biggest roadblock to the radical changes needed to fix the housing crisis for millions of people is the Conservative party itself. It is largely the same ideologically inflexible Conservative culprits who are making the Prime Minister’s life so difficult over Brexit who will not countenance the Government action that is needed to deal with the other big challenges our country faces: social care, falling real wages, deep regional divides and, of course, housing. So after nine years, we must conclude that the Conservatives in government cannot fix the housing crisis, and that it will fall to a Labour Government to do that.

Here is the plan. We will build 1 million genuinely affordable homes over 10 years, the majority of which will be for social rent, with the biggest council house building programme in this country for nearly 40 years. We will reset grants for affordable housing to at least £4 billion a year. We will scrap the Conservatives’ so-called affordable rent and establish a new Labour definition linked to local incomes and not to the market. We will stop the huge haemorrhage of social rented homes by halting the right to buy and ending the Government’s forced conversions to affordable rent.

We will end rough sleeping within five years, with 8,000 new homes available to those with a history of rough sleeping and a £100 million programme for emergency winter accommodation to help to prevent people from dying on our streets. We will legislate so that renters have new rights: to indefinite tenancies; to new minimum standards; to controls on rents; and to tougher enforcement. We will give young people on ordinary incomes the home ownership hope that they deserve, with first-buy homes, with mortgage costs linked to a third of local incomes and with first dibs on new homes in their area.