Labour has officially put housing near the top of the agenda, as evidenced by the prominence Miliband’s announcement enjoyed down here in Brighton yesterday.
In his keynote speech, the Labour leader unveiled a plan for 200,000 homes per year, the biggest house building programme in a generation. The proposals will help tackle land banking in London by unlocking the 210,000 homes with planning permission but are not being built and also create the new supply the capital desperately needs.
The proposals would allow councils to impose escalating fees on developers who refuse to build, backed up by the threat of compulsory purchase orders for the very worst offenders. This would give councils the tools they need to effectively tackle land banking, where developers maximise value by sitting on land instead of building on it.
Use it or lose it planning permission is a fair yet forceful way to shift the 210,000 homes in London which have planning permission but are not being built. Under the current system, developers find it more profitable to sit on land than to build on it. This is an innovative response to the land banking that is much to blame for our housing crisis.
The plan also includes a new commission to review housing legislation and to identify land for house building across the country. It will start laying the groundwork soon, so that the programme can jump off as soon as we form the next government.
Additionally, towns would be given a ‘right to grow’ beyond their own boundaries into neighbouring local authorities.
Only 18,000 homes were completed in London last year, less than half of the 40,000 that the Mayor admits he needs to build and far short of the 52,000 to 60,000 that experts say are needed. There’s crying need for homes across all tenures, but especially for people on low to modest incomes.
The national house building programme is also great news for the capital. London must already accommodate a rapidly rising population, but if the rest of the southeast fails to meet its own needs, particularly for affordable housing, then the pressure on London could be even greater.