COUNCILS should not be punished for the Tories’ failure to provide them enough cash for new affordable housing, Labour said yesterday before Theresa May announces her plans today.
Shadow housing secretary John Healey said the Tories’ eight years of failure was “the fault of Whitehall and not town halls,” especially after it was revealed last week that the government’s housing department has returned £817 million to the Treasury.
Ms May is expected to outline new policies targeting “nimby” councils that could see them have their planning powers snatched away by government if they do not meet new housing targets.
Housing Secretary Sajid Javid warned local authorities he would be “breathing down your neck every day and night” to ensure home-building targets are met.
He admitted that failure to address the housing shortage in the country could lead voters to vote for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, which has pledged to build more than 100,000 genuinely affordable council and housing association homes every year.
Mr Javid’s “year-old policy” of denying local authorities control over the location of new housing shows that ministers “have no proper plan” to solve the crisis, Mr Healey said.
“Since 2010, home ownership has fallen to a 30-year low, rough sleeping has more than doubled and the number of new homes being built still hasn't recovered to pre-recession levels,” he added.
“In the week he’s surrendered £800m of unspent housing funds to the Treasury, more buck-passing from Sajid Javid isn’t going to cut it.
“It’s time the Tories changed course and backed Labour’s long-term plan to build the homes the country needs.”
A total of £48m for Northern Powerhouse affordable housing was returned because it “has not been required in 2017-18,” according to Mr Javid’s department.
And £24m was “surrendered” to the Treasury because it was an “underspend against the existing [affordable homes] programme.”
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has claimed that it would be spent in future years, but Labour said the delay was “selling families short.”
Ms May acknowledged on the Andrew Marr Show on BBC 1 yesterday that the lack of truly affordable housing is a “real problem” but she will go ahead with threatening cash-strapped councils with government intervention if they do not meet new targets.
An overhaul of planning laws will see the creation of new rules to give councils targets for how many homes they should build each year, taking into account local property prices, wages and the number of key workers such as nurses, teachers and police officers.
Higher targets will be set for areas with higher “unaffordability ratios, Mr Javid said.
He told the Sunday Times: “We need a housing revolution. The new rules will no longer allow nimby councils that don’t really want to build the homes that their local community needs to fudge the numbers.”
Mr Javid said homes would not be built on green belt, but any area outside “naturally protected land” would be free for construction.
He also revealed plans to build at least four new garden towns and villages between Oxford and Cambridge.
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