At the heart of the housing crisis in England is the failure of successive governments to build enough social rent council homes. We all see the impacts of this failure every day, in the harrowing statistics on housing and homelessness, in the cases that we see on the television, and with the increasing amounts of rough sleepers that we see on our daily commutes. The party must take significant steps to ensure that any future Labour government tackles the housing crisis head-on.
Last year, to ensure that a Labour government would end the housing crisis once and for all, the Labour Campaign for Council Housing played a key role in shaping the housing policy for our 2019 general election manifesto. The result was a set of ambitious manifesto commitments that put council housing back at the heart of Labour’s housing policy:
- To build at an annual rate of at least 150,000 social rent homes per year, with 100,000 of these being built by councils for social rent, by the end of the parliament;
- To end the Right-to-Buy policy;
- To provide a £75bn infrastructure fund to deliver these homes, over five years.
We are all bitterly disappointed with how the 2019 general election ended, but that should not mean that our ambition to end the housing crisis ends as well. As a result, LCCH wrote to all Labour leadership and deputy leadership candidates asking them to commit to retaining Labour’s commitments on council housing.
We believe that it is important for members to know what their next leader’s political priorities are, and whether making a material impact on housing and homelessness in England is one of them. When you consider that housing was top of the constituency Labour parties’ priorities ballot at the 2019 Labour conference, this takes even more importance in the context of the leadership elections.
In this regard, it is hugely encouraging to see such a positive response over the last two weeks. Both Rebecca Long-Bailey and Lisa Nandy have responded to LCCH, by re-committing to a policy of building 100,000 social rent council homes per year. This is a hugely welcome commitment, and we commend the fact that both Long-Bailey and Nandy recognise that the solution to the housing crisis is building more housing that is affordable for everyone, everywhere.
We are still looking forward to a public commitment from Keir Starmer, who has not yet formally responded to LCCH. With his constituency falling within the borough of Camden in London, we know that he understands how acute the housing crisis can be and that a key reason he wants to be leader is to tackle homelessness, through providing high quality council housing. Starmer has shown this in his constituency work and in his campaigning.
To publicly back a large-scale council housebuilding programme is a chance to cement these promises within a policy commitment. We do hope to hear from his campaign soon, and hope that he continues to publicly back such a programme if elected as leader of the party.
All of the deputy leadership candidates – Richard Burgon, Angela Rayner, Ian Murray, Dawn Butler, and Rosena Allin-Khan – have committed to retaining Labour’s policies on social and council housing from the 2019 general election manifesto. Again, this is a hugely welcome commitment from all candidates for the deputy position and we wish them the best of luck in their campaigns.
Research conducted by the housing charity Shelter outlined that 280,000 people were recorded as homeless in England last year. This means that one in every 200 people in England are homeless, sleeping on streets, or stuck in temporary accommodation. More than one million households are on waiting lists for a social home.
Looking beyond any internal division, this leadership election is an opportunity for all candidates to publicly commit to ending the housing crisis through a large-scale council housebuilding programme, and we are glad to see such a positive response so far.