Jeremy Corbyn has vowed to tackle Britain’s housing crisis with new moves to cap private rent levels, build more council housing and to end ‘social cleansing’ caused by Tory benefit caps and housing sell-offs.
The Labour leader accused the Government of ‘social cleansing’ his London constituency and other areas of the capital, claiming its benefit curbs and plans to force housing associations were forcing the poorest away from the communities they grew up in.
In an interview with HuffPostUK, Mr Corbyn also said that his new plans would help persuade Tory voters that they had a ‘self interest’ in voting to end a system where many young people had to live at home into the 30s.
He also hit out at rising house prices, warning they were not ‘a good thing’ and declaring that it was ‘nonsense’ to pretend that homes values were linked to sustainable economic growth.
Labour’s Shadow Communities Secretary John Healey is currently working on a raft of policies to win back voters on the key issue of housing.
He hit out last week at plans to rebrand 'affordable housing' to include homes for near-market sale at up to £450,000.
Mr Corbyn said he understood the public mood on the issue needed radical solutions.
“I absolutely get it on housing. I represent a community that is being socially cleansed. Socially cleansed of people who rely, often in work, on housing benefit to survive,” he said.
“The benefit cap prevents them staying they have to move out and the whole area churns, children leave school they have to go somewhere else.
“So what do we do about housing? One, recognise there is a huge housing shortage. Two, recognise that there a lot of deliberately empty properties through land banking. Three, that the sale of council housing and housing association properties is creating a crisis as deep as created by Right to Buy by Margaret Thatcher.
"In the borough we are in the moment, if the Conservative proposals go through on forced sale, we will be forced to sell 6,000 properties when there are probably 10 to 15,000 families in desperate housing need, it makes no sense at all.”
Mr Corbyn said that his priorities included bold plans to cap rents.
“My priorities are one, invest in council housing with lifetime tenancies. Two, regulate the private rented sector on quality on length of tenure and in areas of high rent levels like London there has to be maximum rent levels put in by region or by income level there’s got to be an affordability there.
“Germany has a very large private rented sector, it has long term investment, it is fully regulated.”
Asked if that could include new legislation linking rents to average earnings, he said “it could, yes”.
The Labour leader also said that inexorably rising house prices were a sign of economic weakness rather than strength.
“We are running an economy where we pretend that rising property values equals economic growth. It’s nonsense,” he said.
“The rise in value of a stack of bricks and mortar, steel and wood and glass is just that, bricks and mortar, steel and wood and glass. It has the same intrinsic value.
“Instead we have this house price inflation which is claimed to be a good thing. It’s not actually. But there is of course a buy-in to those who own a place.”
He added: “I own a house, well it’s a shared ownership.” He then joked: “Me and the bank share it – a mortgage it’s called…I don’t want you to get the wrong idea.”
Asked how he would appeal to Tory voters in the south and in marginal seats that he needs to win an election, Mr Corbyn said he would pitch to their self-interest being the same as that of others.
“There is a self interest in voting for a society where there is health care for all, where there’s a mental health service for all, where there is education service for all,” he said.
“And above all a housing policy that doesn’t end up with young people staying in their parents’ home until their 30s or 40s because they can’t afford to rent, they can’t have a council place, they can’t afford to buy.
“So my message to them is: think about the kind of world the Conservatives are creating where the disposing of state assets, shrinking the state and in the end you and your children are going to have problems.
“And adult social care may not be available for those that desperately need it. If we want to live in the kind of decent, cohesive society that I think everybody aspires to, then listen to what we are saying and think about it. Osborne selling off public assets, cutting taxation for the very richest isn’t going to bring that about.”
Asked if he should be straight with the public about the need to raise taxes to fund more housing and other public services, he replied: “There’s three ways of raising money.
“One is you raise everybody’s income tax, I don’t want to do that. You tax the very wealthiest and the corporations, I think that’s reasonable to look at those areas. The other is to expand the economy and cut down on tax avoidance and tax evasion.
“Inequality is a terrible waste of time, a waste of people’s resources. Low ages are counter-intuitive to an expanding economy, inefficient.”
And he denied that the British public seemed contradictory on tax and spend, wanting European style public services with US levels of taxation.
“I don’t think people think that. I think they do get the combination of ‘you pay in to get a good pay-out’. That’s in the sense of a payout through a social wage, the social wage being a health service, local government, education, social care, mental health services, all those things.
“You pay in and you do get out as a result of it.”