Britain: Labour promises public housing ‘revolution’

November 22, 2019

The British Labour Party has promised to “kick-start a housing revolution” as it unveiled its election manifesto, including commitments that would bring about Britain’s biggest public housing construction program for decades.

According to Labour List’s Elliot Chappell, the manifesto launched by Jeremy Corbyn in Birmingham on November 21 included radical proposals for housing, including a promise to build 150,000 new council and social homes within five years. The party is also pledging to increase the construction of council homes to 100,000 a year and genuinely affordable homes to 50,000 a year by the end of the term of parliament.

As part of the plan, Labour will abolish the Tory definition of so-called “affordable” housing, which allows rents of up to 80% of market rate, and replace it with one linked to local incomes.

Social housing rents will be set by an established national formula at around half the cost of market rents. Living-rent homes will have rents linked to a third of average local incomes and a category of low-cost home ownership introduced, where mortgage costs are linked to a third of average local incomes.

According to Labour List, half of Labour’s social transformation fund — around £75bn over five years — will be allocated to housing in order to fund the new commitments. New homes will be built to meet environmental standards.

“Housing should be for the many, not a speculation opportunity for dodgy landlords and the wealthy few,” Corbyn said. “I am determined to create a society where working-class communities and young people have access to affordable, good quality council and social homes.”

There are currently more than one million households stuck on council housing waiting lists across Britain. More than 10,000 people are living in emergency accommodation, and 3.6 million people living in overcrowded accommodation.

Labour housing spokesperson John Healey commented: “The next Labour government will kick-start a housing revolution, with the biggest investment in new council and social homes this country has seen for decades.

Labour has cited the award-winning Goldsmith Street development in Norwich, which involved almost 100 highly energy-efficient homes, as an example of the standard of housing that will be delivered.

In Britain, 400,000 people are currently homeless or at risk of being homeless. Despite the severity of the housing crisis, official figures show that the construction of government-funded, affordable homes for social rent fell by 90% last year, to fewer than 1000.

The last time the country built more than 150,000 council and housing association homes combined in a year was 1967.

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