Thursday 19 April 2018 / 10:22 AM Housing / Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn speech at launch of Housing for the Many review


Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour Party, speech at the launch of Labour’s Housing for the Many review:

Good morning. Thank you all for coming.

We are launching this Green Paper at a time of crisis for our housing system.

A million on housing waiting lists tens of thousands of children in temporary accommodation without a home to call their own; homelessness up by 50% since 2010; the indignity of sleeping on our streets at night or sofa surfing among friends; sky-high rents and house prices; luxury flats proliferating across our big cities; while social housing is starved of investment.

And the horror of the fire in Grenfell Tower, a fire in which people literally died because of where they lived, haunting the nation’s conscience.

Today, Labour set out our plan to turn this around and it involves two simple steps: build enough housing and make sure that housing is affordable to those who need it.

That’s why we have promised today that the next Labour Government will deliver one million genuinely affordable homes over ten years, the majority of which will be for social rent.

And that we will dismiss the Tories farcical definition of affordable housing for the sham that it is, replacing it with a definition that understands that whether housing is affordable or not depends on how much people earn, not how much speculators have flooded property markets.

We know that building houses on the scale that’s needed will not be easy.

Housebuilding has been in steady decline for decades, from over 350,000 a year at the beginning of the 1970s to well below 200,000 today. The only times we have built enough affordable housing is when councils have stepped up.

We know by now that we cannot rely on arms-length incentives for private housebuilders, building for profit to solve the crisis.

As they themselves openly acknowledge, it is simply not profitable for them to build houses for the less well-off. We need to do it ourselves.

But council building has been in decline since the Tories introduced the Right to Buy at the same time as shackling councils by prohibiting them from using the proceeds to replace the houses sold.

Fifty years ago, local authorities were responsible for nearly half of all new housing completions. Nowadays it is just 2%.

At the beginning of the Thatcher years, nearly a third of housing in this country was for social rent. That figure is now less than 20%. We know that we can reverse that under Labour.

Today, Sadiq Khan announces that the number of affordable homes and the number of homes for social rent, started in London in the last year, are higher than in any year since the GLA was given control of affordable housing funding in the capital.

That is the difference Labour can make in Office. But Sadiq and his team are starting from an extremely low base and working within the crippling constraints imposed by this Government.

A Government that has not only failed to deliver on social housing, but made it their mission to eliminate it, cutting social housing grants time and time again, redefining affordable housing so that it’s no such thing, forcing councils to sell their best stock.

This has left councils under enormous pressure, left with the responsibility to house people without the powers or funding to do so.

To turn this around will require radical measures to properly fund, empower, and support councils to deliver affordable housing for all.

This Green Paper sets out many of the radical measures needed, transforming the planning system and ending the “viability” loophole so that commercial developers aren’t let off the hook; giving councils new powers to acquire land to build on and better use land the public already owns; and the financial backing to actually deliver, which means the ability to borrow to build restored to all councils; and extra support from central government too.

Over the coming months we will go even further, throwing everything we can into building council capacity so that once again they can build on the scale that’s needed.

It will mean a new era of social housing, in which councils are once again the major deliverers of social and genuinely affordable housing and set the benchmark for the highest size and environmental standards.

When the post-war Labour government built hundreds of thousands of council houses in a single term in office, they transformed the lives of millions of people.

People emerged from six years of brutal war to be lifted out of over-crowded and unhygienic slums into high quality new homes and introduced to hitherto unknown luxuries such as indoor toilets and their own gardens.

Setting new benchmarks in size and energy efficiency, something that old council stock still does to this day council housing was not a last resort but a place where people were proud to live.

Today’s challenges are different but the ambition needed is the same.

At the heart of the housing crisis we face today, is that housing has become a means of speculation for a wealthy few, leaving many unable to access a decent, secure home.

As a country, we have lost the principle that a decent home is not a privilege for the few but a right owed to all, regardless of income. Let today mark a turning point, from which we start to get it back.

The only way to do it is through social housing. And that’s what a Labour Government will deliver.