In her speech at the Labour Party Conference 2023 in Liverpool, Angela Rayner promised that the party would deliver “the biggest boost in affordable and social housing for a generation.”
Speaking to the crowds, the deputy leader of the Labour Party criticised the current state of the housing market in the UK: “Safe, secure, affordable housing is no longer the foundation on which people can rely.
“Too many people are stuck paying unaffordable private rents or living the nightmare of a home wrapped in flammable cladding.
“The dream of home ownership is slipping away as more than 1 million families wait for social housing.
“Families who need a council house are often stuck in cramped temporary accommodation or at the mercy of private landlords.”
Ms Rayner went on to explain that: “A secure home, like a secure job, is a game changer and a crucial foundation for a good life.
“That’s why we will get social homes built, brick by brick, building not just homes but also communities.
I pledge to you today, Keir and I will deliver the biggest boost in affordable and social housing for a generation, and conference, that includes council housing.
Her speech promised an end to underspent housing funds
Referencing the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities’ £1.9bn underspend, the shadow housing secretary pledged that under Labour, the affordable homes programme would be made ‘more flexible’, to ensure that funding is properly utilised to build more homes.
In July, the Guardian uncovered that the government handed back total of £1.9b, with £225m of this accounting for approximately 8% of the programmed spending on the Affordable Homes Programme for 2022-23.
It was calculated by the Chartered Institute for Housing (CIH) that this underspend could have been used to fund the development of 5,000 new affordable homes.
Ms Rayner added that spending these funds more effectively will entail the support and collaboration with local leaders ‘who know their area best’.
Labour will ensure developers are delivering adequate social housing
The MP for Ashton-under-Lyne went on to explain how developers must deliver on their housing goals.
She said: “We will strengthen the rules to prevent developers from wriggling out of their responsibilities, and we will speed up the building of new social and affordable housing.
“We’ll do this by reforming the planning system. Elected local leaders will be given the powers they need to stand up to vested interests in building new developments through a specialist government Take Back Control Unit that will work with them to rebalance the scales.
“And conference, we will provide stability and certainty for the affordable and social housing market so their confidence is there to invest.”
Labour’s housing pledges come with a focus on both the tenant and the economy
Later in her speech, Ms Rayner, who had already spoken briefly about her own experience of living in a council house and the opportunities it had provided her, explained the benefits of social and affordable housing, not only for the tenant, but for the country.
She said: “Affordable and social council houses aren’t just a nice add on. They’re fundamental to securing decent homes for all, a hammer to smash the class ceiling and a lynchpin of the economy.
“They are quicker to occupy and build and to get the growth that we need, and create reliable well paid and highly skilled jobs in the process.”
The Party will also introduce rental reform, the MP pledged, as well as banning no fault evictions.
First time buyers will also be prioritised when looking to buy on new developments within their communities, and a ‘comprehensive mortgage guarantee scheme’ will be introduced for those unable to rely on family to help fund them.
Ms Rayner also promised new reforms on planning and to end the ‘medieval’ leasehold system.
The Deputy Labour Leader’s speech was met with praise
Throughout her speech, Ms Rayner was applauded for her housing pledges by the crowd at the Liverpool conference.
Among those welcoming Labour’s pledges was Kate Henderson, chief executive at the NHF. She said:
I welcome this strong and ambitious support to help Housing Associations deliver the homes this country desperately needs. The need for a long-term plan has never been plainer.
“Our research shows that, without action, by the end of the next Parliament nearly 5 million households will be living in unaffordable homes and 150,000 children will be facing homelessness. We need certainty and stability to be able to build, improve and maintain the safe and secure homes needed to keep up with demand.
“A long-term plan to solve the housing crisis will transform the health, economic security and life chances of millions, and it’s great to see recognition and understanding of the central role that social and affordable housing will play.”
Gavin Smart, chief executive of the Chartered Institute for Housing, echoed these sentiments: “If we’re going to tackle the housing crisis we need to accelerate (truly) affordable housing delivery, with clear targets, strategic planning and much needed capacity building.
“The proposals outlined today are a welcome first step in demonstrating the significance placed on this agenda, with recognition that the state has a key role to play.
It’s good to also see a clear commitment to bringing forward reforms to the private rented and leasehold sectors. Everyone should have a decent, secure, and affordable place to call home.”