Revolutionary and eminently doable: our critic on Labour's housing policy

Jeremy Corbyn’s proposals treat housing as a means of providing shelter and building community – rather than as a way to extract rent and accumulate capital, which the Tories seem to favour

‘A million new homes over the next five years!” The Conservative party’s manifesto pledge was launched with the same triumphant brio as “Get Brexit done!” – with the bluster obscuring the fact that the promise actually represents a decrease in current house building rates.

A million homes over five years is equivalent to 200,000 homes a year; earlier this month it was announced that the present rate of supply stands at 241,130. The pledge also represents a downgrading of the Tories’ previous target, to reach 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s, which they have promised since 2017. “We’ll build even fewer homes than our current pitiful record!” would have been a more accurate announcement.

This headline (non)commitment set the tone for a business-as-usual manifesto as far as housing goes, revealing that solving the crisis has tumbled even further down the list of Conservatives’ priorities.

Reinforcing their position as the party of home ownership, they plan to encourage a new market in long-term fixed rate mortgages (an idea tried by Gordon Brown, which never took off), and provide discounts for “local” first-time buyers. This latter pledge appears to be taking the widely discredited Starter Homes initiative – which promised a 20% discount for first-time buyers – and ramping it up to 30%, under the new brand of First Home. It was recently revealed that no Starter Homes were ever actually built, while the detail of the new policy specifies that the discount “could apply to up to 19,000 homes by the mid-2020s” – equating to less than 2% of the total promised number of homes.

Continue reading...