POLITICS
18/04/2018 22:30 BST

Labour To Redefine 'Affordable Housing' To Help The 'Just Coping' Class

The Tories say Labour 'always make big promises, and always fail to deliver them.'

PA Wire/PA Images

Labour will redefine ‘affordable housing’ to help more people on middle incomes buy their own homes, the party will announce on Thursday.

Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey are set to unveil plans to link affordable house prices to average incomes, instead of allowing them to be dictated by local market values.

The announcement is alongside a pledge to build a million “genuinely affordable homes” over ten years – although the majority will be for social rent, not for sale.

The Tories claim Labour were making undeliverable promises, and accused Corbyn of wanting to axe the right for council tenants to buy their own homes.

Ahead of the unveiling of Labour’s affordable housing review, Healey said: “We will build for those who need it, including the very poorest, with a big boost to new social rented homes.

“We will also build Labour’s new affordable homes to rent and buy for those in work on ordinary incomes who are priced out of the housing market and being failed by housing policy.

“The ‘just coping’ class in Britain today who do the jobs we all rely on – from nurses to call centre supervisors to shop staff.

Corbyn added: “When housing has become a site of speculation for a wealthy few, leaving the many unable to access a decent, secure home, something has gone seriously wrong. 

“Luxury flats proliferate across our big cities, while social housing is starved of investment and too many people are living in dangerous accommodation at the mercy of rogue landlords.

“We need to restore the principle that a decent home is a right owed to all, not a privilege for the few. And the only way to deliver on that right for everyone, regardless of income, is through social housing.”

 Other proposals set out for consultation by Labour will also include:

  • a new ‘duty to deliver’ affordable housing for councils, with a new needs assessment and enhanced ‘new homes bonus’ for affordable housing

  • a new English Sovereign Land Trust to make more land available, more cheaply

  • new borrowing freedoms and central funding to get councils and housing associations building at scale

  • a new Department for Housing.

Labour has been keen to make housing front and centre of the local election campaign, with voters due to go to the polls across the country in two weeks.

It produced a party election broadcast earlier this month focusing on the issue, featuring interviews with people recounting their experiences of the housing crisis, including a support worker who was forced to serve an eviction notice to a woman who had recently suffered a miscarriage.

An ex-serviceman, a teacher and a radiographer were also among those who described their struggles with the high cost of renting.

It was revealed earlier this year that home ownership for under-45s dropped by more than a million since the Conservatives came to power in 2010.

The English Housing Survey showed that whereas 4.46 million under-45s owned a property in 2009/10, that figure fell to 3.41 million by 2017.

Theresa May vowed to tackle the “broken housing market” in a speech to the Conservative Party conference last year, and in the Autumn Budget it was announced that stamp-duty would be abolished for most first-time buyers.

That was calculated by the Office for Budget Responsibility would to lead to an increase in house prices, an analysis backed up by a Treasury Select Committee in a report published in January.

David Orr, Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation, described the measures as “a positive statement of ambition”

He said: “It sets out an important package of measures which recognise the vital role that housing associations play in building the genuinely affordable and quality homes the country needs.

“It includes many policies to welcome, especially the £4billion in grants for affordable homes and cheaper access to land.

“This paper should be the catalyst for further important conversations between the sector and the Labour Party and we look forward to working with them on this.”

Conservative Housing Minister Dominic Raab was dismissive of the announcement, and said: “Labour always make big promises, and always fail to deliver them.

“In London, the Labour Mayor has not built the affordable homes that he promised. And Labour would kick away the housing ladder from everyone living in council houses by taking away their Right to Buy, just as Labour did in Wales.

“Under the Conservatives, we are investing £9 billion to build more good quality homes that people can afford and have seen the highest number of new homes being built for a decade.”

The local elections, due to take place on Thursday May 3, will see council seats up for grabs across England, including in the 32 London boroughs