Labour to slash ‘affordable’ rents and give first-time buyer ‘dibs’ on homes

Elliot Chappell
© Alexandru Nika/Shutterstock.com

Lucy Powell is expected to use a speech on Sunday at Labour’s annual conference to unveil plans to slash the cost of ‘affordable rents’ by fixing them at a rate of 30% of local incomes in a major housing policy announcement.

Commenting on the announcement, which will also see her reveal that the number of properties in a development that can be sold to overseas buyers would be restricted to 50%, Powell described Labour as “the party of homeownership”.

The Shadow Housing Secretary will use her conference speech to explain that the opposition party would, in government, give first-time home buyers exclusive rights to purchase new-build properties for a period of six months.

“It is harder than ever to get a foot on the property ladder. Labour will make the dream of owning a home a reality for every grafting Brit – no matter where they live,” the frontbencher said today.

“Labour is the party of homeownership, the Tories are the party of speculators and developers,” Powell added. “They treat housing as a commodity, not the bedrock of stable lives and life chances.”

She is also expected to outline how Labour plans to give local authorities powers to force landowners to sell vacant sites in order to build new housing at lower prices than the current compulsory purchase system allows.

Powell will say that the link between work and affordable housing is broken for too many renters and first-time buyers and that by cutting the cost of affordable rents people will be able to save more to get on the housing ladder.

The current definition of affordable rent, defined nationally by the government, is anything up to 80% of the market rate. Labour pledged in its 2019 general election manifesto to scrap this definition and link affordability to local incomes.

“Labour will focus on affordable, secure, safe housing. We’d make sure first-time buyers get first dibs on new homes, not investors. And we’d give councils the power to deliver housing their communities need – not what makes developers most profit,” shadow housing minister Mike Amesbury tweeted this morning.

The opposition party has repeatedly criticised the government for failing to tackle the housing crisis, and described plans announced by ministers last year to overhaul the planning system as a “developers’ charter”.

The government is also facing rowing pressure over the planning reforms from Conservative backbenchers, which increased significantly after their Chesham and Amersham by-election defeat to the Lib Dems in June.

Labour brought forward and urged Tory backbenchers to back “use-it-or-lose-it” legislation, aimed at speeding up housebuilding and protecting the right of local communities to have a say over planning applications, earlier this year.

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