Former Labour chancellor Alistair Darling has claimed his party did not focus on housing during its last spell in power
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Speaking at the RESI housing conference in Newport earlier this week, Darling said that the state needs to play a much bigger role in the housing market.
But he said that building new homes was not a priority under prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
He said: ‘A government can only focus on two or three major things, and for us it was education and health. Housing wasn’t a priority in the 1990’s, just like it wasn’t in the 1980s.’
I’m not in favour of the State taking over everything
‘I’m not in favour of the State taking over everything, which is why somebody’s not getting my vote,’ he joked, referring to Labour leadership candidate and current frontrunner Jeremy Corbyn.
However, Darling called for a return to greater government intervention in delivering housing, saying: ‘We’ve lost the days after the Second World War, when successive governments would wear like a badge of honour the number of homes they’ve built. I
‘’m not saying I’d like to see 100 per cent state ownership, but certainly more involvement is needed.’
Darling’s comments were made despite the fact that net additions to housing stock reached record levels in England immediately prior to the housing crash.
Although housebuilding levels were much higher in the late 1960s and 1970s, these were partially offset by large-scale demolition programmes.
Neal Hudson, associate director of residential research at property consultancy Savills, said: ‘The focus on housing only really began in the later period of the New Labour government, which coincided with a boom and a lot of inner city housing development. The number of homes being built did creep over 200,000 just before the crash.’
Darling also said that garden cities should not be imposed on communities without proper structures to deliver them.
‘The original new towns didn’t happen by chance,” he said, “they happened because the government set up structures to do it,’ he said.
‘You can’t just superimpose towns on people - I’m not sure people want lots of new build towns.’
Darling: 'Housing wasn’t a priority in the 1990s'