Ed Miliband will today declare that a One Nation Labour Government will back home builders and first time buyers - by tackling the “home blocker” councils and land hoarding developers that stand in the way of the new houses British families need.
On a visit to Stevenage, the Labour leader will warn that the shortage of new homes is now a part of sustained cost-of-living crisis for millions of families and a threat to Britain’s future prosperity.
He will launch the independent Housing Commission led by Michael Lyons, who has been asked to draw up a road map for increasing the supply of new homes in England to more than 200,000 a year by the end of the next parliament.
Mr Miliband is expected to say:
“I want to send a clear message today: we will tackle those councils that block homes, those developers that hoard land and this government that fails to act on the worst housing shortages for a generation. We will stand up for home builders and first time buyers. And take on those who stand in the way of working people and their children having the decent homes they deserve.
“David Cameron is presiding over the lowest levels of homes built in peacetime since the 1920s - and already families are suffering from some of the worst housing shortages for a generation. This is now part of a cost-of-living crisis for millions of people for whom the dream of home ownership is fading into the distance.
“The Government has focused almost solely on increasing demand for housing and, while tinkering with planning rules, has done next-to-nothing to increase supply. The result is a broken market where it now takes ordinary families over 20 years to save enough for a deposit and those renting privately are paying as much as half their income on rent.
“At this time of year, when family is so important, there are parents who fear their children will never get a place of their own. And there are millions of young people who fear they may never be able to get on the housing ladder; never invite their parents round for Christmas dinner.
“At current rates we will be 2 million homes short of what Britain needs by 2020. If families are to prosper and our country is to succeed, Britain needs new homes. And the next Labour government will lead a non-stop drive to build them.”
Mr Miliband will commit the next Labour government to backing local authorities like Stevenage that want to build new homes – and condemn those like neighbouring North Hertfordshire Council that systematically block such development.
He will highlight plans to legislate for towns like Stevenage to have a Right to Grow as one of the key policies by which the next Labour government will begin to tackle housing shortages. The planning inspectorate would examine different local plans, and arbitrate between authorities to allocate housing based on need, and then oversee a fast track consultation to agree housing development.
And he will announce that four Labour-controlled councils – Stevenage, Oxford, Luton and York – have signed up to become the first “Right to Grow” local authorities where there is immediate potential to build 40,000 new homes in these areas alone.
Mr Miliband is expected to say:
“Stevenage is a great community - an example of how successful new towns can be. But for decades now it has been waiting to be completed and for decades it has been thwarted by home blocking councils on its borders.
“But plans to build almost 10,000 desperately-needed homes on the edge of this town have been blocked every single step of the way by North Hertfordshire Council, even though that would take the pressure off other areas in the county.
“There have been consultations galore, planning permission granted and lengthy appeals. The only winners have been lawyers, on whom Stevenage has had to spend more than £500,000 since 2001 on this issue alone.
“North Herts Council is a home blocking council. It is bad for its neighbours, bad for its own residents where the housing waiting list has got ever longer, and bad for those who wish to protect their market towns from over-development
“This is a stick-in-the-mud council. But a Labour government will not let desperately needed housing be stuck in the mud of North Hertfordshire.
“There are other examples across the country where proposals from successful towns and cities - like Luton and Oxford - have been blocked by neighbouring councils.
“Of course it is right that local communities have a say about where housing goes. But councils cannot be allowed to frustrate continually the efforts of others councils to get homes built. So the next Labour government will unblock this planning process and unlock the potential to build tens of thousands of new homes where they are needed.”
Mr Miliband will warn that home shortages and rising house prices means many developers see more profit to be made from land speculation than from constructing the new homes needed if Britain is to be better off in the future.
He will commit the next Labour government to giving communities new “use it or lose it” powers to release land that is sometimes being hoarded by developers even though it has planning permission or has been set aside to build upon.
Mr Miliband is expected to say:
“Profits for our four biggest housing developers are going through the roof. They have soared 557% since this Government took office - even though homes have been built at their slowest rate witnessed in peacetime for almost a century.
“But there are large amounts of land – enough to build more than a million homes - earmarked for houses which have not been built . Developers need a bank of land with which to work. But sometimes they, and other landowners, are hoarding it.
“The next Labour government will give councils powers to charge fees or, if necessary, purchase such land, so that developers have an incentive to do what they went into business to do. We will back home builders. But we will tell land hoarders with sites that have planning permission that they must use it or lose it.”
Mr Miliband has also asked the Housing Commission to draw up detailed proposals on both the right to grow and use it or lose it powers, as well as other priorities for the next Labour government:
- How local authorities could identify sites for - and deliver a plan to build - new towns and garden cities like Stevenage. As Ed Balls said recently these may be underwritten with Treasury guarantees modelled on those currently used for Help to Buy and infrastructure projects to provide cheaper funding
- Simplify rules surrounding the Housing Revenue Account to give local authorities more flexibility in how existing public funding is spent.
- Ensure communities get a greater share of windfall gains from the granting of planning permission and have more of a say in how they are used, including providing more social and affordable housing locally.