Labour pledges to act to bring down the cost of housing, and improve environmental standards, so that everyone has a decent, affordable home. We will create a new Department for Housing and set out a strategy for council-led local construction. Labour plans to use public land to use for low-cost housing and not sell it off to the highest bidder. Developers will face taxes on stalled housing developments and we will make brownfield sites the priority for development and protect the green belt. We will introduce a tough new zero-carbon homes standard for all new homes and will upgrade millions of existing homes to make them more energy efficient.
Home ownership has got further out of reach for young people. Labour will build more low-cost homes reserved for first-time buyers in every area and reform Help to Buy to focus on first time buyers on ordinary incomes, introducing a levy on overseas companies buying housing, while giving local people first refusal on new homes built in their area. We will end the sale of new leasehold properties, abolish unfair fees and give leaseholders the right to buy their freehold at a price they can afford. We will take urgent action to protect private renters through rent controls, open-ended tenancies and new minimum standards.
The only way to deliver on everyone’s right to a good home is to build more publicly funded social housing. Labour will deliver a new social housebuilding programme, with council housing at its heart. By the end of the Parliament we will be building at least 100,000 council houses a year.
Concerning homelessness, the causes of street homelessness and rough sleeping are complex but many of the people involved have drink, drug or mental health problems. About a year ago Leeds city council brought together all of the different agencies that are trying to work on different aspects of the problem into a street support team. They know many of the individuals involved and they’re able to offer a wide range of support.
Because people with drink and drug problems can find it very difficult to stay in hostels – because the hostel not unreasonably says that they can’t drink or take drugs – the council has been taking part in the Housing First programme. This involves rehousing people directly off the streets into their own accommodation with support. Over 100 people have been helped in this way, but it does depend on the individual wanting to take part. Recent figures from Shelter, incidentally, show that Leeds has a lower rate of street homelessness and people living in bed and breakfast accommodation than cities like Manchester and Birmingham.
Hilary Benn – Labour Candidate for Leeds Central