Fixing the housing crisis: Labour’s top priority
Nationally, housing is now Labour’s top priority. Here’s more on the local picture in Scarborough and Whitby.
Labour’s local action plan for Housing:
* Key to solving the housing crisis is creating more social housing.
* Private lets need rent controls, minimum standards and secure tenancies – savings on current high levels of housing benefits collected by landlords would go to support good social housing.
* Holiday lets will pay a fair share of local taxes.
* ‘Affordable’ housing has to really mean affordable, and link to local earnings.
* Need, not private profit, must drive housing policy.
* Understanding the local context is really important – a local housing plan would focus on strengthening communities of year-round residents, and helping young people into good quality housing.
Across North Yorkshire, the average house price is seven times average earnings. In Scarborough and Whitby, with a significant proportion of residents classed as low-income, housing affordability is a particular problem. Two thirds of the local population earn less than £23,400 per year. The median weekly income here is £459 gross, well below regional (£479) and national (£520) levels.
Right To Buy in North Yorkshire has been a disaster. Four in ten properties bought under RTB are now privately let out, at high rents, or as holiday homes. Most people now buying under RTB are over-50s. Social housing completions are a tiny fraction of the number of houses sold off. This borough has over 2,000 families on its social housing waiting list.
The losers in all this, big time, are younger people.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Between 1997 and 2010 the Labour Government built two million homes, helped a million more families become home-owners, and put in the biggest investment in social housing in a generation.
Below are ten of the top policies that Labour will enact in power. There’s more in our Housing for the Many green paper.
Labour will take bold action to tackle the housing crisis and support local councils. We will:
1. Build a million genuinely affordable homes to rent and buy over 10 years, scrapping the Tories’ definition of ‘affordable rent’ housing and replacing it with a new definition linked to local incomes.
2. Halt the Right to Buy and give councils the new funding and powers they need to kickstart the biggest council house building programme in nearly 40 years.
3. Scrap ‘no fault’ evictions, control rents for private renters, and give councils new powers to regulate the private rented sector.
4. End rough sleeping within five years, with a new £100m plan for emergency winter accommodation for every rough sleeper in every area and 8,000 new homes reserved for those with a history of rough sleeping.
5. Allow councils to charge a 300% council tax premium on properties that have been empty for more than a year.
6. Bring all council and housing association homes up to a new standard, to make them warm, safe and dry, and fund the retro-fitting of sprinklers in all high-rise social housing tower blocks.
7. Build new homes for ‘living rent’, with rents linked to a third of local incomes, and FirstBuy Homes where mortgage costs are linked to a third of average local incomes.
8. Create an English Sovereign Land Trust to take profiteering out of the land market.
9. Scrap the punitive bedroom tax, which indiscriminately punishes social tenants for not downsizing even when there are no smaller properties available to move to.
10. Introduce a new ‘zero carbon’ homes standard for new homes to reduce emissions and help lower household bills.
Other useful links:
The Fabian Society, Beyond Affordability
The Fabian Society, Labour Country
North York Moors NP, Strategic Housing Market Assessment 2016
Shelter, ‘A Vision for Social Housing‘
John Boughton, Municipal Dreams: the Rise and Fall of Council Housing, Verso, 2019.
Stuart Hodkinson, Safe as Houses: Private Greed, Political negligence and Housing Policy After Grenfell, Manchester University Press, 2019.
Thanks especially to Jim Pearse, Connor Young, and all participants in the CLP discussion on 13 Sept 2019.