In a speech at the Labour Party Conference held in Liverpool, John Healey MP, Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary, criticised the Prime Minister’s statement concerning affordable housing, claiming it falls short of what is required, and he promised a collection of measures that would effectively end Britain’s housing crisis.
‘Rebuilding Britain for the many, not the few’, the slogan for Labour’s conference, set the tone for the opening speech from Mr Healey, who explained that the Labour Government would be radical on housing policy to end the current housing crisis, and compared the party’s aspirations to the post-war Labour Government’s achievements.
During his speech, John Healey promised that a Labour Government would embark on the largest council programme for house building for more than 30 years, and would focus on those who need homes the most and those who are already being failed by implemented housing policy. These include the very poor and vulnerable, as well as those on ordinary incomes who are currently priced out of owning a home. Stating that homelessness has doubled since 2010, and home ownership has dropped to a 30 year low, Labour pledged radical and deliverable change, and vowed that first-time buyers on low incomes would be eligible for mortgages priced at a third cheaper than current levels, as part of the Labour Low Cost Homes to Buy proposal.
The Labour minister attacked the Prime Minister’s proposed £2 billion pledge for affordable housing, and vowed to put control into the hands of tenants by creating a £20 million foundation. This fund would support the founding and expansion of renters’ unions.
Labour also plans to introduce new taxes on holiday homes in an effort to tackle increasing wealth inequality and homelessness. Second properties which are utilised as holiday homes will be subject to a new levy based on the property’s value, which would be equivalent to double the council tax rate.
Around 174,000 properties may be subject to this levy, which would raise approximately £560 million a year, with areas such as North Norfolk, Cornwall, Kensington and Chelsea and South Lakeland likely to feel the impact. Labour claims this money would be allocated to councils nationwide to aid homeless families with infants and children currently living in temporary accommodation.
To oversee these new initiatives and policies, a Labour Government would launch a fully-fledged and dedicated housing department. This organisation would ensure housing focuses on homes for the many, rather than investment opportunities for the wealthy, with the aim of improving the standards, affordability and number of available homes.
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