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Housing costs ‘single biggest blight’ in London

Words: Laura Edgar

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell says Labour would look to give local authorities powers to impose rent regulations as he labels the cost of housing the “single biggest blight” in London.

Speaking at Labour’s first annual State of the Economy conference, which set out the party’s plan for the economy, McDonnell said the reason the Conservative government is “failing” on home ownership is because its support is “not targeted at those who need help the most”.

McDonnell said people, particularly the young, are unable to get on the housing ladder and are then “at the mercy of an unforgiving, unrestrained housing market”, with urban areas “suffering from skyrocketing rents”.

He said Labour would look to give local authorities the powers to impose rent regulations to secure fair rents where needed. Additionally, said McDonnell, shadow housing minister John Healey plans to build 100,000 council houses a year, funded from savings in the Housing Benefit bill.

“With fewer new social rented homes built last year than at any time in over two decades, it will be a top priority for a Labour government to reverse the short-term and counter-productive cuts in housing investment made by George Osborne,” he added.

Turning his attention to home ownership, the shadow chancellor said there are now “35 million fewer home owners under 35 than when David Cameron became prime minister”, with the biggest drop among young, working-class people.

He said households earning more than £100,000 a year are those benefiting from government schemes.

As the Conservatives are “not targeting those who need help most”, Labour would make it a “mission” to ensure families and young people on ordinary incomes “aren’t locked out of home ownership as they are under the Tories”.

Labour councils, such as those in Manchester and Sandwell, said McDonnell, are offering “cheap, local authority- backed mortgages to first-time buyers in particular”. Therefore, Labour “will be looking at ways to securely expand local authority mortgage lending”.

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