Labour housing policy: Social housebuilding, rent controls and action on leaseholds

The Labour Party has launched its manifesto, which pledges to vastly increase social housebuilding, introduce minimum standards in the private rental sector, and reform Help to Buy.

The manifesto has made the following pledges:

  • Spend £75bn on building 150,000 council or housing association homes a year, with 50,000 being “genuinely affordable” based on local incomes.
  • Set up a English Sovereign Land Trust, with powers to buy land more cheaply for low-cost housing.
  • Tax second homes used as holiday homes to help deal with homelessness.
  • Introduce rent controls capped by inflation. Cities would have powers to cap them further.
  • Bring in open-ended tenancies to stop ‘no fault’ evictions.
  • Introduce minimum standards in the private rental sector, enforced through nationwide licensing.
  • Toughen up sanctions for landlords who break the rules.
  • Fund renters unions to allow renters to organise and defend their rights
  • Get rid of the rules that require landlords to check people’s immigration status or that allow them to exclude people on housing benefit.
  • Give councils powers to regulate short-term lets, through the likes of Airbnb.
  • Reform Help to Buy to focus on first-time buyers on ordinary incomes.
  • Tax overseas companies buying houses.
  • Give locals the first option on newly built homes in the area.
  • Give councils powers to tax properties left empty, to bring new homes back into use.
  • End the sale of new leasehold properties, and allow leaseholders to buy their freehold ‘at a price they can afford’.

Reaction:

Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders, said: “This country is in dire need of a housing revolution to address the critical lack of homes that is hampering the very fabric of our society.

“It is therefore pleasing that Labour are placing the delivery of housing at the forefront of their manifesto commitments.

“However, if supply is to meet demand, there needs to be a strong collaboration between the public and private sectors as neither can deliver the required upsurge in delivery alone.

“Labour’s manifesto places an overemphasis on the role of the state in supplying homes with very little detail on the role of the private sector in this endeavour.”

Joseph Daniels, founder of modular developer Project Etopia, said: “By going after landbanking developers and focusing on the crucial element of land supply, Labour have really shown they are determined to look properly at the real causes behind periodic declines in housebuilding.

“This is what the industry needs, far more than housebuilding pledges that lack any real roadmap for how they will be delivered, which is what we’ve seen from parties in the past. Talk is often cheap and the industry is crying out for meaningful change to allow developers to unlock land and bring it forward for development. If this is acheived the country could see a real turning point in public policy to help solve the housing crisis.

“These pledges have to be balanced with the commitment to cut carbon emissions and the Liberal Democrats’ proposal that all homes should meet the Passivhaus standard shows the major parties are becoming more creative when it comes to housing policy.

“A requirement to build to the Passivhaus standard would set a world-leading benchmark for housebuilding in Britain and send a strong message to developers about how quickly they need to make their construction process more carbon neutral.”