Labour will take difficult choices on home-building, shadow housing secretary says

Image credit: Dreamstime

A Labour government will make the “difficult choices” when it comes to building more homes, said shadow housing secretary Lisa Nandy, as she accused ministers of being “afraid of the taboo” of the green belt.

Nandy used a speech in Manchester to criticise the Conservatives for being “too cowardly to take on a land market that inflates prices” and argued that the current system is “rigged against first-time buyers”.

She vowed to “tilt the balance of power back” in favour of those looking to get on the housing ladder, pledging to use central government support to “help them make the leap into home ownership”.

In an address to the Housing 2023 conference, the shadow minister said that Labour will deliver a “refreshed model of housebuilding” that will “put social and genuinely affordable housing at the very heart of our plans to jump-start the housebuilding industry”.

She also told developers they can expect “transparent, long-term planning frameworks, quicker decisions and a more stable political environment” as her party looks to solve the national shortage of homes.

Nandy criticised the Tory government’s decision to drop its housebuilding target, which she said had led to a shift from “bricks to benefits” whereby the incumbent government spends 10 times more on housing benefit than on producing affordable homes every year.

She suggested the current system is at odds with the principles of modern Conservatism, questioning what Adam Smith would think of a market that “creates no incentive for competition, innovation or quality”.

Nandy also hit out at the current mortgage crisis, warning “sticking plaster” solutions would not fix the problem.

“Untargeted mortgage relief that fuels the inflation crisis is no substitute for stabilising the economy and getting interest rates under control,” she said.

“And when housebuilding is falling off a cliff and buy-to-let landlords are leaving the market, rent controls that cut rents for some, will almost certainly leave others homeless.

“It might be politically easier to put a sticking plaster on our deep-seated problems, but if it is cowardice that got us here, it is never going to get us out.

“So we won’t duck the challenge of building the number of houses we need and the right homes. No longer will we tolerate council housing being treated as a dirty word.”

Labour has already said it would restore the target of building 300,000 houses a year following Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s decision in December 2022 to make it advisory rather than mandatory, as he looked to see off a potential Tory backbench rebellion. Sunak has continued to come under fire, including from pro-housing MPs in his own party, for that decision.

Sir Keir Starmer, Labour’s leader, said this month that the dropped target meant housebuilding was likely to fall to its lowest level since the Second World War.

Nandy, in pre-briefed comments ahead of her speech, said: “There are difficult choices that must be faced to build the houses we need. And make no mistake – we choose growth. A broken market and an absent state is the worst of all worlds.”

Nandy set out how Labour plans to create a new generation of local development corporations, spearheaded by and accountable to communities, if it wins the next general election, which is expected to be held in 2024.

The Labour party, which is well ahead of the Tories in the latest opinion polls, has separately committed to overhauling how land is valued under the compulsory purchase order process in order to speed up new developments.

It has also pledged to free up parts of the green belt for development. The green belt refers to the policy of leaving an area of land around a city or town undeveloped or set aside for agricultural use to prevent urban sprawl.

“We will be honest about what the green belt is and isn’t,” Nandy said. “We will release poor-quality ex-industrial land and dilapidated, neglected scrubland to build more housing.

“A sensible, strategic approach that ends a decade of potholing on the high-quality green belt and helps us tackle the housing crisis.”

Earlier this month, Sir Keir outlined the Labour Party's pledge to turn the UK into a clean energy superpower by 2030 and to “cut bills, create jobs and provide energy security” by removing planning barriers standing in the way of green initiatives.

In other political news this month, an independent survey revealed that less than one-fifth of Leave voters now believe that Brexit has "gone well". The poll of 4,005 UK adults, carried out by Public First on behalf of UK in a Changing Europe, showed that only 18 per cent of Leave voters believe that Brexit has gone either “well” or “very well”.

Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.

Recent articles