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General Election Emma Reynolds, the Shadow Housing Minister, reflects on historically low house building levels under the Coalition Government and outlines Labour’s strategy for housing if elected in May.


emma-reynolds-shadow-housinemma_reynolds_electionWe are not even building half the number of homes that we need to keep up with demand. A record number of young people are living at home with their parents. Many young people and families are priced out of homeownership and some of these families are living in overcrowded conditions.

We have committed to ban letting agent fees to tenants.”

Despite the desperate need for more homes, under this Tory-led Government we have seen the lowest level of house building in peacetime since the 1920s and homeownership is now at its lowest level for 30 years.


Labour is committed to tackling the housing shortage and we have set out a comprehensive plan to get at least 200,000 homes built a year by 2020. Under our plan, we want to see all local communities take responsibility for their own future and plan for the homes local people need. A Labour Government will make it compulsory for every local authority to have a plan which sets out how it intends to meet local housing needs.

But with that responsibility will come much greater powers to deliver the homes their communities need. We’ll give local councils the ability to designate land as a “Housing Growth Area” in their local area and set up “New Homes Corporations”, normally at devolved city and county region level. These will unlock powers so that local authorities can assemble land, directly commission development and enter into partnerships with builders to get homes built where local people want them.

With homeownership falling to a 30-year low, we also want to ensure there are greater opportunities for the next generation to get on the housing ladder. That’s why within these new areas of Housing Growth, we will ensure that up to 50 per cent of the homes could be reserved for first-time buyers.

We must also boost diversity and competition in house building. We’ll introduce fast-track planning rules for small sites of less than ten homes through red-line applications and we’ll introduce a new Help to Build scheme which will allow SME builders to access lower cost bank lending supported by Treasury guarantees.

The public sector must be able to do more too. Ed Miliband and Ed Balls have said under a Labour Government, housing will be a top priority for capital expenditure in the next parliament. We’ll also move to single-pot funding for housing removing the bureaucracy of having multiple sources of funds and we’ll refocus public expenditure from benefits payments to house building over time. We will also allow fuller use of existing provision for Government guarantees to help Housing Associations secure loans.

Innovative use of public land will also help us deliver more affordable homes. And where councils present a strong business case and investment plan to the Treasury they will be offered greater flexibility through the Housing Revenue Account to build more council homes.

In addition, we will support a programme of Garden Cities and new extensions to existing settlements, so called ‘Garden Suburbs’. This will be supported by New Home Corporations and new financial incentives including financial guarantees and the retention of business rates.


As part of our plan to build more homes, Labour is also committed to expanding the private rented sector and attracting more investment, including institutional investment. Our reforms to give greater powers to local authorities through Housing Growth Areas and New Homes Corporations should allow increasing joint ventures with housing associations, private developers and investors to deliver high quality properties for market-rent.

We also believe that the private rented sector needs to change to meet the needs of those living in it. Our plan to reform private renting will help provide stability for the nine million people who live in the sector, including the 1.3 million families with children but it will also promote more stability for landlords.

Labour will introduce longer term three year tenancies with predictable rent during the course of the contracts. Landlords and tenants will set initial rents based on market value and conduct a rent review no more often than once a year. Rents could be reviewed downwards, upwards or stay the same, subject to market conditions. But there would be an upper ceiling on any rent increases based on a benchmark, for example, inflation or average market rents.

We are also committed to driving up standards in the private rented sector and driving out the minority of criminal landlords who make tenants lives a misery and undermine the reputation of the
many good landlords. That’s why we’ve committed to establishing a National Register of Landlords which would assist in council enforcement.

Labour is also committed to regulating letting agents to protect tenants and landlords. It makes no sense, for instance, that there is no requirement on letting agents to have client money protection
insurance when they hold thousands of pounds belonging to both tenants and landlords. In addition, we have also committed to ban letting agent fees to tenants. Too often, tenants and landlords are double charged for the same service and we will bring an end to this unfair practice.

Labour is committed to tackling the housing crisis by building more homes and creating thousands of jobs and apprenticeships. But we are also committed to building a more professional and successful private rented sector.

April 24, 2015

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