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Emily Thornberry, the former Labour leadership hopeful, has stated that buy-to-let landlords who leave their properties vacant should have these homes seized in order to help tackle the housing crisis across the UK.

In a passionate speech in Bristol during the hustings for the party leadership, the Shadow Foreign Secretary stated that there must be strong legislation implemented in order to punish the wealthy landlords in the UK who allow their homes to sit vacant.

She explained that more homes must be built but that a measure of both reward and punishment should be introduced in order for government funding to be used to build more council housing, social housing and affordable housing. However, Ms Thornberry explained that currently punishment does not go far enough. 

In her speech, the Labour MP also warned supporters that the country risks leaving an entire generation behind, as the majority of young people are unable to afford to purchase their own home. She also added that foreign investors from China, who are tempted to buy a flat in the UK rather than other assets, are also responsible for leaving flats empty. To solve this problem, Ms Thornberry added that property should not be purchased as an investment to be left empty. If property remains empty, she added, the investor should lose the property. 

For the management of rental property, software such as that developed by InventoryBase can ensure that rental homes and the processes for management run smoothly. 

The Labour MP is also calling for local councils to be granted powers to take back any land from developers where they have failed to adequately act on planning permission which has gained approval over five years ago. 

In the Labour manifesto from 2019, the party called for property developers to be subject to new taxes which would be applicable to stalled housing developments, with a lose it or use it approach.

The Shadow Foreign Secretary campaigned to secure a position in the final stages of the Labour leadership race to find a successor to Jeremy Corbyn. However, Ms Thornberry was eliminated from the race in February after failing to gain enough nominations to progress to the next stage. She was the only candidate from the four still running at this stage who had not secured their place and was two nominations short of the 33 required to progress further. 

Another Labour leadership candidate, Lisa Nandy, was quizzed about her views on Britain’s housing crisis. She explained that a broken economic model had put pressure on housing stock across the UK. 

The MP for Wigan also stated that some homes in former industrial towns were also boarded up as they were unaffordable to live in. She explains that this is a consequence of the departure of jobs in these areas, and as a result of this, the young people along with them. 

She further states that the flip side is that the young people move to cities, including Bristol, which is overheating only one part of the economy and entirely under-appreciating and under-using another. This explains the current issues of high property prices and the lack of young people being able to afford to get on to the housing ladder. 

The Shadow Business Secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey, emphasised that there must be a strong building programme for council houses, which was laid out in Labour’s last manifesto. 

Sir Keir Starmer, the new Labour leader, has also stated that more home are required at rates and rental prices at which people can afford, and he explained that overcrowding in the capital was creating a negative effect on children’s education in London. 

He went on to state that he sees the housing issue as a much larger issue of social justice.

Image credit: Colin Edward Jepson /