Labour in local people housing vow

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Published: Thursday 16th October 2014 by The News Editor

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Local people would be given priority in buying new homes in their area under a Labour scheme being unveiled by Ed Miliband.

As part of its commitment to build at least 200,000 homes a year by 2020, Labour would give councils powers to designate Housing Growth Areas (HGA) for new homes.

And local authorities would be allowed to reserve a proportion of the new homes for first-time buyers from the area, who would have priority access to properties for a period of two months.

Exact details on eligibility for the scheme would be at councils’ discretion, but it is thought as many as 50% of properties could be reserved for people who have lived or worked in an area for at least two years. Labour sources stressed that the scheme was not intended to exclude would-be home-buyers of non-British origin or without family roots in the area.

By creating an HGA, councils would be able to assemble land and provide certainty that homes will be built on it along with public facilities like schools, green spaces and GP surgeries in larger developments.

Covenants would be placed on homes in Housing Growth Areas to prevent them being sold for buy-to-let rental or purchased as an investment and left empty.

The proposals are contained in the independent housing review carried out for Labour by Sir Michael Lyons and being unveiled by Mr Miliband on a visit to Milton Keynes.

The Labour leader is expected to say: “There has been a systematic failure to build the homes our country needs.

“Too much development land is held as a speculative investment when local people need homes. Too often the trickle of new developments that get completed are snapped up before people from the area can benefit, undermining support for much needed further development. And, for too many young families, the dream of home ownership is fading fast.

“Only Labour has a plan to build the homes that our country, our local communities and our families need.”

Mr Miliband said a Labour government would make housing a bigger priority within the existing capital settlement for the next Parliament, requiring all local authorities to produce a plan to meet housing needs in their area and insisting that big developers “play their part” rather than hold land back.

And he added: “We will also make sure that communities get the benefit from new home development by guaranteeing that where communities take the lead in bringing forward additional developments, a significant proportion of homes on those sites cannot be bought by anyone before first-time buyers from the area have been given the chance.

“This is not only a fairer system, it is also one which will encourage local communities and local authorities to support the development that our country so desperately needs.”

Sir Michael said that his report set out a comprehensive plan to deal with “the biggest housing crisis in a generation”, which would make more land available for homes and unlock investment in infrastructure.

“We simply have to do better as a nation, not only because our children and grandchildren need the homes we should be providing now, but because greater house building will make a direct contribution to national economic growth,” he said.

“My report sets out a comprehensive plan to tackle the key problems that underpin our failure to build enough homes. This will require strong leadership from central government alongside the delegation of powers and responsibility so that every community provides the homes they need.

“The recommendations will make more land available for new homes; unlock investment in infrastructure; and ensure that new homes are built when and where they are needed in attractive, thriving places. That will involve a more active role for local government in assembling land and in risk sharing partnerships with developers, landowners.

“We will need the industry to do more, get smaller house builders back into business, tap potential in the construction industry, attract new enterprise and unlock potential for Housing Associations to do more. This will reverse the shrinking capacity in a key UK industry and create 230,000 new jobs whilst adding 1.2% to GDP.”

Conservative Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said: ” Labour are trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes. They say they can meet their housing promises and not borrow a single penny extra to pay for it, but this just isn’t credible.”

Mr Lewis added: ” What’s more, no one will take any lectures from Labour on house-building. Thanks to this Government’s long-term economic plan, house-building in England is at its highest since 2007 and in the last 12 months, 230,000 homes received planning permission. By contrast, house building is falling in Labour-run Wales, thanks to their extra red tape and botched introduction of Help to Buy.”

Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the Home Builders Federation, said: “We welcome the commitment by Labour to increase housing supply. Whilst we have seen a big increase in house building activity in recent months, we are still not delivering enough homes to meet the country’s needs.

“Policies that would result in more land coming forward for development more quickly and further assist first-time buyers would clearly provide a boost to housing supply. We look forward to working with the Labour Party to develop their policies as we move towards the general election.”

David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation and member of the Lyons Review panel, said: “We currently build half the number of homes we need each year, which has left us with a housing crisis which is only set to get worse for the next generation. We need to act now to ensure our children have roofs over their heads in future.

“I welcome the ideas that would see us build 200,000 new homes by 2020 and the ambition to go beyond this to meet demand. We’re pleased that the ideas we’ve put forward to all the parties ahead of the general election have been listened to, such as access and control over how land is used.

“We are calling on the next government to commit to end the housing crisis within a generation and to publish a long-term plan within a year of taking office detailing how they will do this. The ideas detailed in the Lyons Review would take us a step closer to this.”

Published: Thursday 16th October 2014 by The News Editor

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