Minister call to end housing crisis

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Published: Thursday 2nd July 2015 by The News Editor

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Ending the housing crisis is the “defining test” of the present generation of politicians, Communities Secretary Greg Clark will tell town hall chiefs.

Mr Clark will issue a stark warning that many young people are being “exiled” from their birthplaces because of the lack of affordable homes in a speech to the Local Government Association (LGA).

But interim Labour leader Harriet Harman will tell the LGA conference that Government policy is not only inadequate but could – in the case of extending the right-to-buy to housing association properties – worsen the situation.

” For centuries, to be exiled – to be sent away – was considered to be an extreme penalty, reserved for the most serious of offences against the community,” Mr Clark will say.

“Yet in many parts of our country it has become normal for young people to leave, though not out of choice. This might be to find work, but more-and-more, it is to find a home that they can afford.

“If we want to maintain the chain of community – and a place for the next generation – then we must make sure we have the homes to welcome them to.

“The responsibility lies with us – national and local leaders alike.

“It is a defining test of our generation of leaders that we care for and resolve the fears and foreboding of the next generation when it comes to that most basic of questions – where and what will I call home?”

Criticising Prime Minister David Cameron’s record on housebuilding, Ms Harman will say: “We don’t think the Government are doing enough to ensure that new homes are built.

“Th eir plans on extending the Right to Buy to Housing Associations risk making the affordable housing crisis worse.

“Ultimately, we’ll see what the Government brings forward, but the test for any housing policy must be whether it eases rather than deepens the housing crisis.

“Proposals which don’t address the key problem – the chronic shortage of homes – will see the dream of home ownership drift further and further out of reach.”

The conference will also see the latest clash of the four candidates contesting the Labour leadership: Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall and Jeremy Corbyn.

They are expected to promise significant new powers for local authorities in England and to criticise the ambition of the Government’s own decentralisation agenda.

Mr Clark will call on ” every place in the country to consider how they can assert their strengths and make their mark” to create ” a nation of muscular communities – north and south, town and country”.

He has promised to go beyond Chancellor George Osborne’s drive to hand powers to large cities which agree to move to an elected mayor system and help shift more direct responsibility from Whitehall to authorities of all sizes.

“I have no doubt about the ability of the people in this hall. Take power now. Don’t let yourself, any longer, be ruled by someone else.”

He will renew, however, his caveat that the private sector would have to be involved in any such arrangement.

“I would not expect to approve any deal that did not have a clear role for the Local Enterprise Partnership,” he will say.

Ms Cooper will say central government should offer help to smaller cash-strapped councils to draw up their plans and said the areas of policy open to being devolved should be widened.

“We need a clear, open and comprehensive offer that works for all parts of the country. And it needs to break new ground in devolving skills for younger people, powers on energy policy, skills and education standards.

“And we will hold George Osborne accountable. The Spending Review should make clear which spending lines are no longer being controlled at the centre and are automatically being devolved to those areas that already have the right governance structures in place.

“Without that happening, we will continue to see departments hold on to power and the regions and cities only getting the crumbs off the table.”

Mr Burnham will say: “If we are going to invest in the homes we need – and the transport and infrastructure we need to grow – we need a massive shift of power away from Westminster and towards councils, cities and communities.”

He has pledged to free local government of restraints on borrowing to build more homes ” while ensuring any additional borrowing is affordable by local councils, through the tough tests already in place”.

Published: Thursday 2nd July 2015 by The News Editor

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