Thursday, 28 July 2016

Shadow housing minister sets out how Labour would build 200k homes a year

Dromey reveals development detail

Labour has commissioned pilot projects to examine ways councils can work more closely with housing associations and developers as part of its pledge to double house building by 2020

Jack Dromey, shadow housing minister, said these would include the formation of new local housing companies which could help a Labour government deliver the pledge made by leader Ed Miliband this week to build 200,000 new homes a year.

Speaking to Inside Housing at the Labour Party conference in Brighton this week, Mr Dromey said: ‘We have some pilots we are undertaking around the country, looking at what I like to call the “dynamic partnership” between the councils and housing associations and a partnership then with house builders and developers.’

He said a ‘variety of mechanisms’ are being considered, including the concept suggested last week by David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, under which new local housing companies could be set up to borrow against ssets.

Labour believes this model, coupled with powers for local authorities to acquire land more easily, could attract investment and make it easier to develop.

The companies would be stand-alone businesses, largely controlled by councils.

He said the party is ‘looking positively and sympathetically at giving councils more freedom to borrow against their assets’, including lifting borrowing caps.

These changes to the housing revenue account will be one of a number of areas to be examined by former chair of the BBC, Sir Michael Lyons, in a housing commission.

Mr Lyons told Inside Housing the commission’s remit extends beyond what was announced in Mr Miliband’s speech and would ‘try to deliver a road map for a future Labour government’s house building’.

The party also reiterated plans to help councils assemble land with a ‘use it or lose it’ model under which house builders will face escalating charges and ultimately a compulsory purchase order if they do not develop land which has planning permission.

Mr Dromey said builders can’t expect to be able to benefit from more land being released to market and then not develop it.

He also stressed the 200,000 figure is a minimum target. He said: ‘It is an extraordinary ambition but it’s a realisable ambition.

‘Are we going to stop at 200,000? No. But are we going to make promises we can’t deliver? No.’

Mr Dromey also said Labour’s main emphasis will be on homes for social rent. ‘We want to build homes of all tenure but a new generation of social homes in particular.’

He said the coalition government’s affordable rent model, under which social landlords can charge up to 80 per cent of market rents ‘has had its day’ and is not affordable. He said however there would be room for intermediate rent products alongside social rent. The party has not revealed how much capital grant it believes it can make available to fund social housing.

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