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Labour government would set up housing department and second-home levy

Words: Laura Edgar
John Healey / Chris McAndrew

John Healey MP has told the Labour Party Conference that change is needed if people are to have a ‘safe, secure and affordable place they can call home’.

He committed a future Labour government to establishing a housing department, building council homes and setting up a second-home levy to solve the housing crisis.

The next Labour administration, Healey insisted, would be the “most radical” government on housing “since that great post-war Labour government”.

The shadow housing secretary pledged that a Labour Government would:

  • Set up a “fully-fledged” housing department to lead the drive to fix the housing crisis;
  • End rough sleeping within a Parliament;
  • Control rent, end no-fault evictions and put a stop to the “tyranny” of rogue landlords;
  • Give first-time buyers on ordinary incomes the opportunities “only the rich get under the Tories”; and
  • Get councils building council housing – and build a million new “truly” affordable council and housing association homes.

“Radical, deliverable, Labour,” he declared.

A new national housing mission would demand more from all – commercial housebuilders and housing associations, lenders and landlords, from tenants to local councils.

Healey said Labour backs new unions for renters, and would fund them in every part of the country, “so renters who feel helpless in the face of this housing crisis can organise and defend their rights”.

To even up the housing market, a Labour government would introduce a national levy on second homes used as holiday homes, so that homeless families have “the chance of a first home”.

He concluded by questioning why nearly half of Grenfell survivors still do not have a permanent home.

“If this was your home, would it really take this long to fix? If this was where your family slept each night, would you fail to act over 15 long months?”

‘Root and branch’ review of planning system

At a fringe event at the party conference, shadow planning minister Roberta Blackman-Woods launched a “root and branch rethink” of the planning system.

The rethink will be undertaken by a planning commission. It aims to give local communities more of a voice in local planning decisions, with the party concerned that the government deregulation of planning has resulted in residents being ignored when decisions are made regarding development.

The commission will consider the planning process and the necessary infrastructure to underpin new development, as well as how to address marginalised voices of the community in the planning process.

Victoria Hills, chief executive of the RTPI, has joined the commission, along with representatives from other industry organisations including the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Federation of Master Builders.

Hills said: “A renewed focus on planning which works in the public interest and gives communities a voice is warmly welcomed, as is the recognition of the important role of training and resourcing of planners to deliver a pipeline of talented future planners.”

“Our 25,000 members are at the coal-face of the planning system and – uniquely – I will be able to bring their expertise to the policy-making table.”

The commission said it will issue a call for evidence on 25 October.

Image credit | Chris McAndrew