Labour’s John Healey, a shadow secretary of state for housing, focuses on his party’s pledge to build a million more homes
With Labour there will be a new national mission to build the homes and infrastructure that the country needs. In the area I lead on – housing – I’m determined that we make a break not just from the failure of the last seven years, but the shortcomings of the previous 40 years too. Labour will put the construction industry at the heart of our plan for Britain beyond Brexit, with more homes and more good construction jobs.
Even the prime minister admits in the recent Conservative housing white paper that the housing market is “broken”. But while the Tories have conceded the scale of the problems, it’s clear they have no plan to fix them.
After seven years in government, the Conservatives’ record on housing is one of failure on all fronts: fewer homes have been built on average since 2010 than under any political party in peacetime since the 1920s. New affordable housebuilding is at a 24-year low with new social rented homes down to the lowest level on record.
This has meant housing pressures getting significantly worse since 2010 – from rough sleeping more than doubling, to the number of home-owning households under 45 falling by 900,000. Everyone knows someone affected by the housing crisis – and few believe that five more years of the same will see people’s housing pressures ease.
Labour will do things differently. We’ll set up a new Department for Housing to put housing at the centre of government. We’ll build a million new homes in England over the next parliament, with at least 100,000 genuinely affordable homes to rent and buy a year by 2022.
We’d be supported and challenged in this by a new OBR-style Office for Housing Delivery. One of the first tasks of the new body will be to take seriously the warnings of many in the construction industry and commission a review of how the government can help ensure the sector prepares for Brexit and plans to thrive beyond.
An essential element of this is starting now to deal with our potential skills shortage. Labour analysis suggests there are nearly 200,000 EU nationals working in the construction industry across the UK, yet the government barely mentioned the issue in its recent white paper on housing and believes this is a “low priority” sector in Brexit planning. I take the opposite view and will ensure, just as we did in government, that new public investment on housing is tied to the creation of apprenticeships, helping train the workforce of the future.
As well as increasing investment in public housing through our National Transformation Fund, Labour will give the private housebuilding sector certainty by extending Help to Buy in exchange for a new deal with commercial housebuilders on housing delivery, affordability and standards. We will give councils new powers to help bring land forward for development more cheaply and speed up construction once permission has been granted.
Supporting the construction industry is crucial for building the homes and infrastructure people need – and for building Labour’s vision of a country for the many not the few.
John Healey, Labour Party
Building asked all three main parties to set out their commitments to the construction industry in an open letter as part of our Building a Better Brexit campaign. The Conservatives declined to take up the invitation.
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The letter summarises construction’s importance to the UK economy and calls on election candidates to consider the key demands in the Building a Better Brexit manifesto.
A list of the candidates is available from the official political parties’ websites, along with contact details. Feel free to add local examples of important construction projects or related issues – we would also be interested to hear about these local stories, so please email us firstname.lastname@example.org.