Party would crack down on developers trying to “wriggle out of their responsibilities”, Angela Rayner says

Labour would oversee the biggest boost in affordable and social housing delivery “in a generation”, the party’s deputy leader has said.

angela rayner conf

Angela Rayner speaking at the Labour conference in Liverpool

Angela Rayner told Labour’s conference in Liverpool that the party would speed up housing delivery by reforming the planning system and strengthening rules on developers to stop them “wriggling out of their responsibilities”.

Rayner, who is also the shadow housing secretary, said yesterday the party would give elected local leaders new powers to “stand up to vested interests” in building new schemes with a specialist government ‘take back control’ unit.

This unit will give advice to councils and housing associations on how to negotiate with developers to ensure affordable housing obligations including Section 106 agreements - under which planning authorities require a percentage of homes in a development are affordable as a condition of planning - are met.

It also would publish guidance that would, in effect, limit companies to challenging these requirements only if there were genuine barriers to building homes. Currently, developers often successfully negotiate lower percentages of affordable homes in developments than the local authority’s policy requires, by arguing schemes would be unviable otherwise.

Rayner’s speech, which opened this year’s Labour party conference, came hours after Keir Starmer pledged to build 1.5 million homes within the first five years of a Labour government.

This would equate to 300,000 homes a year, a Conservative party target which has not been met. Starmer already promised in May to hit the figure annually with mandatory housing targets, but had not set out a five-year ambition.

Building’s sister title Housing Today is campaigning for the government to re-commit to its annual 300,000-home target and is consulting the industry on ways this could be achieved.

Rayner also told the conference that the party would unlock government grants to deliver new homes by making the Affordable Homes Programme “more flexible so that every penny gets out the door to build the homes people need”.

“We will provide stability and certainty for the affordable and social housing market so there is confidence to invest,” she said.

Labour says it would also make it easier for councils to use right-to-buy funds to build new homes.

The party would allow councils and housing associations to use a greater proportion of the grant funds they receive on buying housing stock, which they would then rent out as affordable homes.

Rayner heavily criticised current housing secretary Michael Gove for handing £1.9bn in housing funds back to the Treasury after failing to spend it in the 2022/23 financial year. 

>>See also: Reforming planning: one way to solve the housing crisis

>>See also: Chartered Institute of Housing forms partnership with Housing Today

The cash including £255m of affordable housing funding and £1.2bn of Help to Buy money. 

Rayner said that a Labour government would “right this wrong” and pledged to get social homes built “brick by brick”.

The conference kicked off two days after Labour scored a by-election victory in Rutherglen and Hamilton West, Scotland, with a 20.4% swing from the SNP to Labour.

The party took the seat, which the SNP had taken from Labour in 2019, with 17,845 votes, more than double the number polled by the SNP’s Katy Loudon.

Starmer described the result as “seismic” and said that voters in the constituency had sent a “clear message”.