England is in the grip of a severe housing crisis. There simply aren’t enough decent, affordable homes, putting 4.5 million people in housing need.
It’s particularly acute in London, where the Mayor’s draft Housing Strategy says we need to be completing 42,000 homes a year to meet need – last year 18,000 were built. The result is house prices rising further and further out of the reach of most young families as those in the increasingly competitive private rented sector struggle to keep up with the rent.
We need a concerted effort to tackle the housing crisis with a massive house building programme under a coherent set of policies.
Yesterday, Ed Miliband offered a vision for just such an approach.
Speaking in Stevenage, Miliband launched a Housing Commission to identify where failures in the market and in policy are preventing homes from being built. Led by Sir Michael Lyons, an expert panel will set out a detailed road map for delivering Labour’s housing ambition so the next government will be ready to hit the ground running on entering office.
The commission will investigate how best to implement a set of key policies designed to get homes built. Councils that need to expand will be able to exercise a “right to grow” through a fast-track planning process designed to resolve any disputes with neighbouring local authorities. New Towns on land identified locally will be created by development corporations with the power to acquire and assemble land, raise finance, undertake building, and provide the infrastructure needed for development. A “use it or lose it” planning permission will tackle land banking by giving councils the power to charge big developers escalating fees for sitting on land that is being hoarded and holding back development.
Labour will also reform the Housing Revenue Account system and incentivise development by giving communities a greater share of the benefits.
What we need is a coherent strategy, and these are the policy building blocks we need to help Labour meet its commitment of building 200,000 homes a year by 2020.
But it won’t succeed unless the Lyons Commission lays out a robust road map for how to implement those policies. That’s why it was launched today with a Call for Evidence, so local authorities, housing and planning professionals, and public can shape its findings.
It’s important for London that our voice is heard in the process. How could a “use it or lose it” planning permission unlock the 210,000 homes in schemes with planning permission but aren’t being built? Is there scope for new towns within the boundaries of Greater London, and if so where? If you’d like to submit your thoughts, you can email the Commission directly at email@example.com before the deadline on 28 February 2014.
There can no longer be any doubt that Labour is committed to a set of realistic policies to solve the housing crisis.