Corbyn To Pledge Council House ‘Revolution’ As Centrepiece Of Labour Manifesto

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Jeremy Corbyn will pledge to deliver a housing ‘revolution’ in the UK by building up to 100,000 new council houses and flats every year.

Putting the issue at the heart of Labour’s manifesto, which will be unveiled on Thursday, Corbyn will promise the largest programme of public sector construction since the 1960s.

Backed by a new £75bn cash pledge from shadow chancellor John McDonnell, the Labour leader will also set out plans to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping in Britain.

A crucial feature of the plans is to open up council and housing association homes to more people, ending the stigma that only the poorest would qualify for such affordable rents.

Shadow housing secretary John Healey told HuffPost UK that young people on “ordinary” incomes would be eligible for the wave of new homes.

(Photo: Owen Humphreys - PA Images via Getty Images)
(Photo: Owen Humphreys - PA Images via Getty Images)

“Nye Bevan [the 1940s former Labour cabinet minister] talked of council housing as having ‘the living tapestry of mixed communities’ and he was right,” he said.

“We will build social homes not just for the poorest but for those on ordinary incomes, trapped young renters and young families that just want a start in life while they save for a deposit for their own home.”

The last time 100,000 council houses were built in one year was 1967, under Harold Wilson’s Labour government. In the past year, just 2,000 new council homes were built under the Tory government.

Healey also revealed that the party would resurrect a new version of Gordon Brown’s ‘supporting people budget’, a scheme to tackle the root causes of homelessness that the Tories cut by 60% after 2010.

Aneurin Bevan, former Labour cabinet minister (Photo: PA Archive/PA Images)
Aneurin Bevan, former Labour cabinet minister (Photo: PA Archive/PA Images)

Bevan, who was responsible for housing when he was the UK’s first health secretary, is seen as the inspiration for much of the new programme

He once said: “We should try to introduce in our modern towns and villages housing where the doctor, the grocer, the butcher and the farm labourer all live in the same street...in the living tapestry of a mixed community.”

Labour says it will spend half of its £150 billion “social transformation fund” - borrowing which it would invest to repair the damage done by austerity - on house-building over five years.

An extra 50,000 new housing association homes would also be built every year, taking the total number of social homes to 150,000 per annum.

Several charities and housing campaign groups praised the proposal as a potential “game-changer”.

Ahead of the manifesto launch, Corbyn said: “Housing should be for the many, not a speculation opportunity for dodgy landlords and the wealthy few.

“I am determined to create a society where working-class communities and young people have access to affordable, good-quality council and social homes.”

Labour proposes to build 100,000 council homes a year by the end of its first parliament, which it says is an increase of more than 3,500% compared with currently under the Tories.

Official housing statistics have shown more than one million households are on waiting lists for council housing.

A further 50,000 “genuinely affordable homes” would be built each year through housing associations by the end of the same period.

The party would scrap what it called the Conservatives’ “bogus” definition of affordable housing to replace it with one that is linked to local incomes instead.

The new generation of homes would be built to green standards in a bid to tackle the climate crisis, using the much-praised Goldsmith Street council development in Norwich as an inspiration.

Polly Neate, chief executive of the Shelter charity, said the plan would be “transformational for housing in this country”.

“A pledge to build social homes at this scale would, if implemented, do more than any other single measure to end the housing emergency and give new, affordable, safe homes to hundreds of thousands currently without one,” she added.

The National Housing Federation, which represents housing associations, hailed the proposals as “a real game-changer”.

Chief executive Kate Henderson said: “The housing crisis is having a disastrous effect on millions of people in England, and we need to build 145,000 new social homes every year if we are to end it. We can fix the housing crisis, and this is the level of investment that will be needed.”

The Chartered Institute of Housing welcomed the pledge, with chief executive Terrie Alafat saying: “We think the scale of Labour’s proposals are a welcome step in ending our housing crisis.”

But housing Secretary Robert Jenrick defended the Conservatives’ track-record.

“Under the Conservatives we’ve delivered 450,000 new affordable homes, increased housing supply to its highest level for almost 30 years and increased house-building by 93% in the last six years,” he said.

“After the last Labour government decimated social housing numbers we know there is more to do. This is why we’ve committed £9 billion to deliver a further quarter of a million more affordable new homes whilst continuing to build more homes - helping thousands more onto the property ladder.”

On Wednesday night, the Tories unveiled new plans to help renters with ‘Lifetime Rental Deposits’ which can be transferred from one rental property to another, making the process of moving home easier and cheaper.

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