Labour urged to adopt ‘radical’ housing policies

Party leaders pushed to put conference commitment to building 100,000 social-rented council homes a year in manifesto.

housebuilding

Labour has been challenged to put “radical proposals” for housing in its election manifesto – by its own side.

In an open letter, Labour Campaign for Council Housing urges the party leadership to adopt commitments to build 100,000 social-rented council homes a year, ringfence £10bn for council housing, and abolish Right To Buy.

These policy suggestions were put forward at Labour’s annual conference in September in a motion that was approved by party and trade-union delegates.

Supporters of the initiative come from across the party, including high-profile figures such as Unite’s Len McCluskey, MEPs’ leader Richard Corbett, TSSA’s Manuel Cortes, and several MPs.

Signatories, of which there are over 100, also comprise directly elected mayors, council leaders, portfolio holders, parliamentary candidates, and – crucially – seven ‘Clause V’ meeting attendees.

Labour is not strictly bound by policy passed at conference.

A ‘Clause V’ meeting – usually held within the first two weeks of an election being called – decides which parts of the party programme are included in the manifesto.

At conference, delegates unanimously backed a bid to build 155,000 social rent homes a year, with the extent of support seen as a strong indication of adoption, driven by the report from Shelter’s social-housing commission published in January, which identified more than three million new social homes as needed over the next 20 years.

The 33-point motion specified that at least 100,000 of the 155,000 are council homes – building would begin with “immediate effect” on Labour taking office.

And the motion also made provision a housing grant of at least £10bn a year, ring fenced for delivering 100,000 social-rented council homes to be announced at the first Budget of a new Labour government.

Councils would also get the “powers and resources” to take housing associations under direct control.

At conference, Jamie Sweeney of the Labour Campaign for Council Housing – which led the campaign for the motion – said: “This is a massive leap forward for the Labour Party, and we look forward to campaigning in the next general election with policies that will solve the housing crisis.

Jeremy Corbyn has previously pledged Labour to adopt “the largest housebuilding programme in a generation”.

Conference also heard the party urged to make housing a human right, with delegates told: “A moral society does not allow people to die on the streets.”

Labour will also consider calls for using the Localism Act to reopen the 2012 debt settlement imposed on councils and cut the ‘debt’ in line with projected losses of rental income over the course of their 30-year business plans.

According to Labour’s figures, between 1994/5 and 2008/9 council tenants paid £31bn more in rent than was received by councils in annual ‘allowances’.

Conference heard that the four year rent cut and a fourfold increase in Right To Buy sales mean that councils are collecting hundreds of million pounds less rent than projected in the 2012 settlement.

This would be backed by Labour committing to cancelling all HRA debt held by the Public Works Loans Board, when in government.

In full – The Labour Campaign for Council Housing letter

To Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, and John Healey,

We the undersigned welcome the unanimous support of Labour conference for:

  • Building 100,000 social rented council homes a year
  • £10bn housing grant a year, ring-fenced for councils to deliver this
  • Ending Right To Buy

We understand that this is not automatically included in Labour’s next general election manifesto. In light of the unanimous conference vote, we call on the party to include these policies in the manifesto. They are absolutely critical if a Labour government is to begin to resolve the housing crisis.

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