Sunday, 12 April 2015

Affordable housing: the political parties' policies >>>>>> Labour

To conclude this series on what the parties have had to say about the issue of affordable housing, this is the Labour Party's take:

Ed Miliband vows to help first-time buyers as more young people live with parents (2015)

The Labour leader has pledged more affordable homes, three year tenancies with limited rent rises and transparent fees to ease housing crisis

The cost of buying a first home will double to more than £320,000 if the Tories stay in power. Figures showing how prices will soar further out of reach in the next five years rip apart Chancellor George Osborne’s pledge of more affordable homes.

Labour vowed to tackle the impossible pressure on families with more houses and more stable rents.

Fewer than 125,000 houses were built last year for the sixth year in a row – the lowest rate since the 1920s. Labour wants to see that rise to 200,000 by 2020, with priority for first-time buyers. The Labour analysis predicts just one in five people under 35 will be able to afford their own home by 2020 – less than half those who could when the coalition came to power in 2010.

National Housing Federation chief executive David Orr said: “This generation is given no alternative but to move from one short-term let to the next, never saving enough to buy because their wages are eaten up by rent.”

Ed Miliband plans stronger powers for local communities to build the housing they need – and a crackdown on investors who sit on prime land to cash in once homes are more scarce. And the Labour leader has promised to help families build a stable home and save for a deposit by introducing three-year tenancies with limited rent rises and transparent fees.

Mr Osborne unveiled a subsidy plan for first-time buyers in his Budget on Wednesday, but experts warned it could send prices soaring even higher. When the Tory-led coalition took charge in 2010, the average first-time cost of a home was £160,477. That had rocketed to £217,837 by last December. At that rate, the cost by the end of the next parliament would be £322,576.

An estimated five million aged between 20 and 34 – four in 10 – will still be living with their parents. That figure was already 3.35 million two years ago, up nearly 500,000 since 2010.

The problem is already so bad that thousands of young people are thinking of undergoing clinical medical trials, which can pay up to £4,000, just to get together money for a deposit. A survey of 18 to 34-year-olds by the National Housing Federation found 565,000 considering taking the step.

Shadow Housing Minister Emma Reynolds said: “The Tories only look after the few. Why else would they tax bedrooms rather than build homes? If we had a home for every broken promise on housing we wouldn’t have a housing crisis.”

So why are we in this mess?
Failure to build

A decade ago, the Barker Review of Housing Supply said 250,000 homes needed to be built every year to prevent spiralling house prices and a shortage of affordable homes. That target has been consistently missed. Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, has complained housebuilding in the UK was half that of his native Canada, despite the UK having a population twice the size...

Foreign buyers

Foreign investors looking to cash in on the UK’s house price boom are snapping up property, sending prices even higher as they do so. Rich buyers from places such as Russia and China are being encouraged to plough savings into UK developments, mainly in London, with the promise of strong returns. Overseas cash has pushed up values by 75 per cent in prime areas such as Kensington and Chelsea. Elsewhere in London many people have been priced out of their area as foreign investors inflate prices by up to 25 per cent. But they are also moving in on other areas of the UK...

The great council house sell-off

Margaret Thatcher’s 1980 Housing Act gave council tenants the right to buy their homes – with big discounts. Over the next 10 years more than a million council-owned homes were sold off, at an estimated cost in today’s money of more than £60billion. Most of them were not replaced. Since 1990, a further half a million have been sold. In April 2012, David Cameron increased discounts to a maximum £75,000, or £100,000 for London. In the borough of Haringey 396 homes have been sold under Right to Buy since April 2012. Already, 28 are being rented to people on housing benefit, costing the public more than £265,000 a year...

High private sector rents

Five million people are stuck in a “rent trap”, unable to put money aside to save for their own home. Shelter says people shell out 40 per cent of their income on rent. High rental costs mean more than a third of would-be homeowners think it will take more than a decade to save a deposit...

The buy-to-let speculators

Homeowners cashing in on the house price booms of the past 20 years are fuelling the crisis – using the extra value in their homes to snap up properties to rent out. The equity-rich buy-to-let market has seen older people buying property to supplement pensions, while younger people can’t compete.

Labour shame over affordable homes (2015)

Simon Hughes has stepped up his ongoing battle with the discredited Labour council to protect affordable housing in Southwark.

While Labour has demolished or sold off over 1,000 council properties in the last four years, building only 33, they continue to court overseas developers with the promise of luxury 'investment opportunities' in the Borough.

Simon is fighting for affordable homes to combat the chronic shortage in Southwark, where the waiting list for council housing is pushing 20,000. As Southwark's MP, he has spoken up repeatedly for local people in desperate need ' calling for planning permission for the redevelopment of the Heygate estate to be withdrawn when initial proposals shamefully offered just 8 affordable homes out of over 2,000.

Stephen Greenhalgh: Only the Conservatives will give more Londoners the opportunity to buy their home (2015)

Whenever Labour talks about making housing affordable, it calls for more council housing and more social tenancies. All four of their mayoral hopefuls press repeatedly for more social housing and Diane Abbott has even called for private sector rent caps. Yet Labour’s focus on rented housing is the complete opposite to the aspiration of the vast majority of Londoners to buy their own home, as a startling new YouGov poll shows.

By a margin of two to one, Londoners want homes that they can afford to buy, not more social housing. In fact, across every demographic group, and even among Labour supporters, home ownership is their key priority. Access to a new model of private, secure renting is also favoured by every cross-section of Londoners over more social housing. Labour’s instincts, whether self-serving or honourable, are simply not in tune with what voters want.

The last time our party took the fight to Labour on housing, we introduced the Right to Buy, earning the lasting gratitude of a wave of people who were able to buy their council homes...

The priority for Conservatives must be to deliver a home ownership revolution in London. At the moment we risk having an entire generation priced out of the London housing market, stuck on rent and unable to buy – something Labour’s obsession with providing only social rented housing will perpetuate. We must put Londoners at the front of the queue to buy new homes they can afford. It is a scandal that Labour focuses solely on social housing and misses the bigger picture. It is one more reason to get out there and campaign hard for all our Conservative candidates across the capital.
Stephen Greenhalgh: Only the Conservatives will give more Londoners the opportunity to buy their home | Conservative Home

‘Affordable Housing’ Has Become Almost Meaningless (2015)

It’s complete fantasy that the market can provide sustainable economic growth and the homes we need, writes GLYN ROBBINS

Thirty-five years of failed neoliberal housing policy have reached a new low.

David Cameron has announced that, if elected, a Tory government would build 200,000 new homes a year and offer 20 per cent discounts to first-time buyers under the age of 40. It will do this by robbing Peter (the five million people on waiting lists) to pay Paul (the property developers who now control our housing policy).

Under the scheme, builders will be exempted from “section 106” payments, the crumbs from the table of big planning agreements that require local communities to see some benefit from development. This can be in the form of infrastructure or amenities, but has increasingly become the source “affordable” housing.

The term “affordable housing” has been subject to such misuse as to be almost meaningless. The latest example are the “affordable rents” at 80 per cent of the market level that are becoming a norm for new rented homes built with public subsidy.

As with other aspects of the housing crisis, new Labour must take some of the blame. During the “boom” years unscrupulous developers, avaricious housing associations and supine councils made an unholy pact.

Developers built as many private homes as they could, while housing associations and councils colluded in massaging the definition of “affordable” to help them get away with it. They were all seduced by the fantasy that the housing market could provide sustainable economic growth and the homes we need.

In the aftermath of the crash and growing anger about the scale of the housing crisis, this illusion lies in tatters.

Cameron’s announcement is a reward for failure. Public-private partnerships (PPP), which we’re told are more efficient than direct public investment, have led to a steady decline in the number of homes built.

In the 1970s 300,000 new homes a year were completed, half of them by councils. Today output is down by two-thirds. Councils have been virtually eliminated as housebuilders and housing associations have failed to fill the gap.

Research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in 2013 found that 60 per cent of large housing developments were failing to meet even the inadequate targets for affordable homes. According to the bureau, the “big 10” housebuilders control enough land to provide 480,000 new homes and made profits of £2.1 billion last year, up 34 per cent. The big developers are both causing and profiteering from the housing crisis and now the Tories want to make it even easier for them to do it.

This is a political open goal for the Labour Party, but it’s missing. Instead of making clear statements about the homes we need, Ed Miliband is playing the numbers game, trying to outbid the Tories on how many homes a Labour government would build.

It’s meaningless. Yes, we need more homes, but it’s “what type?” as much as “how many?” that matters.

Allowing developers to reflate the speculative property bubble makes the next market crash inevitable, while British households struggle to meet the 40 per cent of income now consumed by housing costs.

The only way to defuse the housing market is to build more genuinely affordable homes — and that means council housing. It was a shame to hear Green Party leader Natalie Bennett struggle to explain how this can be done.

It’s simple. Let’s start with the £25bn, and rising, we currently waste on housing benefit — effectively a public subsidy to private landlords.

Second, let’s stop giving away valuable public land to private developers. The government has recently announced another fire sale of sites where 103,000 new homes can be built, with more in the pipeline. A Labour government should halt this immediately and use public land for public housing.

Third, with rates at historic lows, the government can borrow now to invest in housing for the future.

Fourth, we can take people off the dole and give them decent jobs and apprenticeships building the homes we need.

Fifth, we can make this new generation of council homes energy efficient and begin to save the £100 a month UK households spend on energy costs.

It’s not a question of “can we afford it?” We can’t afford not to.

I’ll be a candidate for the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition in the general election. I’m standing in Tower Hamlets (Bethnal Green and Bow) where there are 20,000 people on the waiting list and some appalling housing conditions, alongside swathes of private luxury housing, much of it built on public land, using public money. Housing will be the key issue of my campaign, as it should be for the Labour Party’s.

I have a dream where Miliband comes to me on the May 8 and says: “Glyn, what will it take for you to help me form a government?” and I reply: “Ed, all I need from you (for now) is a serious commitment to build council housing. If you’d done that before the election, you wouldn’t need my help.”

Morning Star :: ‘Affordable housing’ has become almost meaningless

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