Housing

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Mr Cameron's government's failure is dismal on housing.  Young people starting out know the dream of having a home of their own is disappearing into the distance.  We are building less than half the number of homes we need, and young people are being priced out of the market with the average house price now eight times the average wage.

This Coalition government has achieved nothing but record lows for house-building and home ownership – and record highs for working people living involuntarily with their parents and young families having to pay rip off charges to rent.

Labour has a plan to get hundreds of thousands of new homes built, 200,00 a year by 2020, and to give priority for those homes to local young people; and a plan for tenants comprising new, longer-term tenancies which prevent rip-off rent rises.  We will include legislation in our first Queen’s Speech to ban letting agent fees charged to tenants, saving Generation Rent more than £2.5 billion over the Parliament – or on average £625 for each family. 

This will help to tackle the cost-of-living crisis with more homes, fairer rents, and help for first-time buyers.  It will also tackle the huge bill for Housing Benefit by helping to bring down rents.

 Labour will:

  • Legislate for 3-year tenancies giving tenants security and peace of mind;
  • End excessive rent rises by putting a ceiling on rent increases during the new three-year tenancies;
  • Ban unfair letting fees, saving the typical tenant £625 over the course of the next parliament, and Generation Rent £2.5 billion;
  • Increase the number of new homes built every year to 200,000 by 2020, with priority for first-time buyers;
  • Give local communities stronger powers to build the homes needed in the places people want;
  • Get the public sector back into building;
  • Tackle land banking through new "use it or lose it" powers;
  • Shake up the housing market by backing SME builders through Help to Build;
  • Build the next generation of Garden Cities;
  • Grant first-time buyers from the area priority access rights when new homes go on sale.

Conversely, the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government has failed on housing.  For example, they have caused the lowest level of:

  • House-building in peacetime since the 1920s. Under this government, house-building has been lower in every year than any year under a Labour government; and with 118,000 home completions in 2014, we are building half the number of homes we need to keep up with demand;
  • Home ownership since 1985, with 205,000 fewer homeowners than when Mr Cameron came to power, and a record 11 million people now living in the private rented sector, including 1.5 million families with children; and in 2014 private rents soared by 8%;
  • Homes for social rent built in at least two decades;
  • Affordable homes built in five years, a fall of 32% since 2009/10;
  • Young people living independently, with one in four (3.3 million) involuntarily living at home with their parents, into their twenties and thirties.

The Tories said that “Every additional home sold will be replaced by a new affordable home on a one-for-one basis.” (Grant Shapps, then Housing Minister). Another spectacularly empty promise.  Since Right-To-Buy was re-launched by the Coalition government in 2012, more than 20,000 properties have been sold off, with discounts of up to 70% on market value – but over the same period, local councils have begun building fewer than 5,000 homes to replace those sold.  The rot has been going on for a long time:  there are now 1.5 million fewer social homes today than in 1979,yet the population is now one fifth larger.

The Tories said they would build more homes and “get Britain building”:

  • We will restart the housing market and get Britain building again." (David Cameron, CBI Annual Conference, 21 November, 2011)
  • “Building more homes [than Labour] is the gold standard upon which we shall be judged.” (Grant Shapps, the then Housing Minister, DCLG Select Committee, 13 September 2010)

Official UK figures show that quarterly new housing starts in England fell by 20% in the second half of 2014.  The number of affordable home ownership homes built in the last year dropped by 50% to 11,330, compared with the 22,240 that were built in 2009-10, the last year under Labour.

The respected Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (“OECD”) is the main independent research organisation for the richer countries.  In its biennial survey of the UK economy published late February 2015, the OECD said that UK is failing to build enough houses to meet demand, and soaring house prices could pose "risks" to financial stability.  It added that the Coalition government’s Help to Buy mortgage subsidies had revived mortgage lending, but "housing supply has not risen to meet demand". 

The Conservatives want to extend their Help to Buy scheme until the end of the decade, at a cost of £6 billion.  This project is doing little more than fuel a damaging housing bubble because all it really does is assist buyers to bid up the prices, whilst offering very little incentive for new homes actually to be built – so the scheme jacks up demand but does almost nothing for supply.

Government schemes to boost homeownership have not helped anywhere near the number of people this government claimed they would.  Mr Cameron claimed that the NewBuy scheme would help 100,000 on to the property ladder but it has helped less than 6% of that figure (5,518) (source: Link)

We’re also falling behind internationally:  home ownership in the UK is now beneath the EU average of 65.7% (for the pre-accession 15 countries) for the first time on record.   The level of home ownership has fallen from 67.4% in 2009-10 to 63.3% in 2013-14.  Meanwhile, two and a half million more people now live in the private rented sector than in 2010, and rents in 2014 rose by 8% in England (up 9% in London).

Only 36% of 25 to 34 year olds now own their own home, while the percentage of young people renting their homes from a private landlord now stands at 48%. 

In addition since Mr Cameron became Prime Minister, homelessness has risen by 26% and rough sleeping by 55%.  In Opposition, Mr Cameron loftily talked about the need to combat homelessness, saying   “I think that it is simply a disgrace that in the fifth biggest economy in the world that we have people homeless, people sleeping on the streets, sofa-surfers, people in hospitals. I think it is a disgrace.” (Launch of the Conservative Homelessness Foundation, 15 May 2008​)

Rob Marris, Labour Candidate for Wolverhampton South West

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