In a speech this morning the Shadow Housing Minister Emma Reynolds spoke in praise of home ownership. She lamented that:
For many young people of this generation, and for the next generation that follows, owning your own home is now an ambition that is out of reach even if you work hard and have a decent job.
Later she added:
Now we have been clear that we support helping people, and especially first time buyers, to realise their dream of home ownership.
She even said:
There are also considerable benefits to home ownership.
For younger people, owning a home gives them their first step on the property ladder.
For young couples, owning a home gives them the stability to start and bring up a young family.
For older people their home is an asset to give them financial security for later in life.
For all of these reasons housing should always be a priority.
Yet the same day the Labour Party on the London Assembly calls for the abolition of the Right to Buy.
Miss Reynolds is silent on the Right to Buy although she does take a swipe at Help to Buy.
The solution Miss Reynolds feels is to free up the housing supply so many more new homes are built to be sold. Indeed. But her notions for achieving this are not convincing. Just announcing a target (as it happens of 200,000 a year) means nothing in itself. Nor does boasting about the Shadow Housing Minister being in the Shadow Cabinet. (Bully for her.) Nor does saying that Sir Michael Lyons will look in it. The Labour Government paid £400,000 of taxpayers money for his last review carried out for the DCLG. Some credible decisions are needed.
Miss Reynolds noted that other countries are building more homes than us but she just mindlessly blames are building firms rather than the planning constraints. She talked about the record house building in the 1930s without acknowledging that the planning regime was much more liberal then allowing the housing supply to be much more elastic.
The Government have begun to ease some of the restrictions – the Labour Party have either been silent or opposed such reforms. There were no proposals from Miss Reynolds for going further.
Building regulations have made it harder for smaller and medium sized building firms to compete. But instead of proposals to cut red tape Miss Reynolds says:
We will give guaranteed access to public land to smaller firms and custom builders.
We will ensure that any public land given over for housebuilding will have a proportion dedicated for this purpose.
Local authorities are required to achieve best value – whether in selling land, or paying for building works. If a deal was given to a small firm that was charging more or paying less than a large firm it would break EU rules. Is Miss Reynolds saying a Labour Government would withdraw from the EU?
She also expressed support for self build. Yet Labour refuses to say whether or not it supports the Government’s reforms to encourage this:
As Eric Pickles said last week:
“We are not just backing large developers-we are supporting self-build by abolishing development taxes such as section 106 and the community infrastructure levy, getting the state off the backs of those who want to build their own homes. I hope that the hon. Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth (Debbie Abrahams)will welcome that. Labour’s response has been silence, no doubt because Labour councils want to tax people to the hilt.”
Building firms want to build. There is no point in telling them to buck up and build more. Red tape must be cut, planning constraints eased and more state land sold. The Government have made modest progress in these areas but need to go much further. Yet Labour were responsible for piling on much of the bureaucratic burden in the first place and have failed to support the limited efforts of the Government to reverse the damage.