Many houses, not few: what does the Labour Party manifesto mean for local housing?
- Credit: Archant
Here’s everything you need to know about the Labour Party’s manifesto pledges for housing, first time buyers and renters, and what it means for Camden residents
On Tuesday, Jeremy Corbyn announced the Labour Party’s manifesto for the 2017 General Election taking place on June 8. ‘For the many not the few’ outlines the Labour Party’s pledges for providing “secure homes for all”, stating that “Britain has a housing crisis – a crisis of supply and a crisis of affordability.”
Perhaps the furthest reaching of its promises is to create a new Department for Housing, which will oversee the creation of over a million new homes pledged by a Labour government, although no time frame is given for their completion. The manifesto does promise to build 100,000 council and housing association homes every year by the end of the next Parliament for “genuinely affordable” rent and sale.
The manifesto argues that rents have risen faster than incomes, and that “housing is about homes for the many, not investment opportunities for the few.” In Camden, the average house prices at 12 times the average income. The Camden Community Investment Programme has faced challenges from Sian Berry’s CIP Challenge, which criticises the regeneration scheme for its lack of provision of affordable homes in favour of high-rise luxury flats starting at upwards of £500,000.
The manifesto assures help for ‘bookend buyers’, promising to consult on local plans to tackle older people’s housing and build thousands of homes for first time purchasers. Labour will guarantee Help to Buy until 2027, alleging that the number of affordable homes to buy has fallen by two thirds under the current government.
As for the new homes themselves, Labour promises to take on poor standards; ensuring insulation is up to scratch to meet climate change targets and help people save money. They will consult on minimum space standards to prevent the building of what it calls ‘rabbit hutch’ homes such as Meadowhill Residential’s scheme to convert ex-council offices into 234 tiny 16 sq mt flats at Barnet House in Brent.
The Manifesto criticises the Conservatives’ record on home-ownership, stating the number of owner occupied households has fallen 900,000 since 2010 for the under 45s. Leasehold tenancies will also come under fire in new build properties with Labour pledging to end its routine use. According to data from the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership, in 2014, 76.6 per cent of apartments in the Hampstead and Kilburn constituency were leasehold.
The Labour housing policy promises to prioritise the local area and protect communities, avoiding urban sprawl by creating a generation of New Towns on Brownfield sites to protect the green belt. Councils will be given new powers to build homes, and new builds will be marketed to local people first, as they have been in Camden’s CIP projects such as those at Agar Grove and Bacton Low Rise.
Private renters will be given greater protection by Labour, which pledges an inflation cap on rent rises, licence landlords and ban letting agents’ fees. The assurance will come as good news to those who have campaigned on the issue such as Camden Councillor and Green Party AM Sian Berry.
Tenancies will be three-years as standard and new legal powers will ensure homes are fit for purpose. London renters will be given additional securities by way of extended Mayoral powers. Camden last month became one of six boroughs to sign up to the pilot database to name and shame rogue landlords.
Council homes will be put front and centre, following Labour’s allegations that under the Conservatives, only one in five council properties have been replaced when sold off. Right to buy will be suspended to stop councils buying back properties at a huge mark up, and councils will resume sales only when replaced like for like. The BBC recently revealed that Camden Council spent £2.5 million repurchasing homes sold off under Right to Buy. Long term council tenancies will also be reintroduced.
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The homeless have also been given attention by Labour, who will reserve 4,000 homes for those with a history of homelessness and will safeguard hostels, supported housing and funding. Housing benefit cuts for 18 to 21 year olds will be reversed and the bedroom tax will be scrapped.
Labour’s Parliamentary candidate for the seat of Hampstead and Kilburn, and incumbent MP until parliament was dissolved, Tulip Siddiq said: “The housing crisis is forcing young families out of Hampstead and Kilburn as average rents continue to soar and home ownership becomes almost entirely out of the question.
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“This is the natural consequence of housebuilding falling to its lowest level since the 1920s, and of rents rising faster than incomes.
“A Labour government will change that, establishing a Department of Housing to oversee a huge housebuilding programme, which will focus on genuinely affordable properties. We will also give councils the powers they have long needed to build homes for social rent.
“This will be welcome news for thousands of residents across the area who fear they are being priced out of an area that they love.”