MASS building of council homes is desperately needed as part of any housing strategy, Jeremy Corbyn said yesterday in response to a government white paper dismissed as pointless by Labour and housing activists.
The Labour leader also said that right to buy, the forced sell-off of high-value council homes by local authorities, poor regulation in the private sector and a shortage of new social housing are to blame for the crisis.
He told BBC Radio London: “Councils deal with huge demand and don’t have the resources to cope.”
Asked what his solution would be, he answered: “End the right to buy, give councils borrowing powers to build more council houses.”
Mr Corbyn added: “What the government thinks of as affordable housing for first-time buyers is certainly not. At the moment, they’re aimed at those with three times the average income.”
The plans in the Tories’ white paper will “desperately disappoint millions of people,” said shadow housing minister John Healey, slamming the proposals as “feeble beyond belief.”
In a Commons debate, Mr Healey said the construction of truly affordable homes in Britain was at a 24-year low and warned that the Tories’ seven years of failure on housing was “set to to stretch to 10.”
He urged councils to be “firing on all cylinders for building” and called for a fairer deal for Britain’s 11 million renters. There are now 200,000 fewer home-owners and homelessness has doubled, he added.
The government proposals include compulsory land purchase powers, encouraging housing authorities to build, freeing up public-sector land, promoting three-year tenancies in the private sector and helping priced-out households.
Mr Healey responded: “Really? Is this it? The government’s record on housing is feeble and embarrassing. We needed better. This statement will desperately disappoint millions of people. It is feeble beyond belief.”
Mr Healey added: “How many times have we heard before that we will free up more public-sector land more quickly under a Conservative government? This is not a plan to fix the housing crisis.”
Mr Healey called for “strong action” on home ownership, and reprimanded the Conservatives for making “not a single mention of homelessness — this shames us all in a country as decent and well off as ours.”
He pledged that Labour would build thousands more affordable homes to rent and buy, and give renters a right to longer-term tenancies and higher standards, as well as committing to end homelessness.
GMB union general secretary Tim Roache said ministers should “stop dithering and start building.”
He added: “If the government had started building projects for each of their 1,000 policy announcements, we wouldn’t be in the mess we are today.”
Glyn Robbins of campaign group Axe the Housing Act said: “We need decisive action to repeal the 2016 Housing Act, control the rents and invest in a new generation of first-class council housing.”
And housing charity Shelter warned that, while talk of longer-term tenancies is welcome, it “risks being disingenuous unless these are rolled out across the board, not just for a handful of people living in new build-to-rent properties.”
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