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Labour launches independent review into housing crisis

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An independent review of housing has been launched by shadow housing minister John Healey

Announcing the review in his speech at the Labour party conference in Brighton on Tuesday (29 September), Healey said he wanted to think ‘bigger and bolder’ about how to tackle the housing crisis.

According to the AJ’s sister title LGC, he has appointed Taylor Wimpey’s chief executive Pete Redfern to lead the review which will ‘analyse the root causes’ of a lack of house building and home ownership.

The review will report back in the summer.

Healey said the fact this was the first time Labour had had a ‘fully-fledged’ shadow housing minister showed housing was ‘now a leading Labour policy’.

Healey referred to a report released on Monday which claimed up to 100,000 new council and housing association homes could be built each year by 2020 if public spending was increased to the same levels as 2009-10 – the last year of the last Labour government.

The 100,000 homes a year target was reiterated by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in his first party conference speech this afternoon, claiming the country would profit from the drive because the housing benefit bill would fall as a result.

The programme could be done by giving councils the freedom to borrow against their assets, making private developers fund more social homes, and reforming the right-to-buy, or using Homes and Communities Agency funding to let councils attract private investment, among other ideas.

The report is not Labour party policy, though.

However, by paying for new house-building upfront would pay for itself ‘in the long-run’ by reducing the housing benefit bill, said Healey in his speech.

‘As we build more, we save more,’ he said.

Meanwhile, Healey vowed to oppose the extension of the right-to-buy to housing associations.

‘It is unworkable and wrong,’ said Mr Healey. ‘It will mean fewer genuinely affordable homes when the need has never been greater so it fails the test of sound social policy, and it fails the test of good economics because it squanders a long-term asset by selling it on the cheap.’

Labour will continue to oppose the ‘hated bedroom tax’, said Healey and added the party would also oppose giving private developers ‘a totally free hand’ on housing matters.

In response, the British Property Foundation’s chief executive Melanie Leech said Labour had made a ‘good start’ by showing it is ‘pro housing-delivery’ but added the party needs to focus on every type of house building and not just social housing.

The Redfern review team

Taylor Wimpey chief executive Pete Redfern
Chartered Institute of Housing chief executive Terrie Alafat
Credit Suisse senior adviser Kate Barker
Oxford Economics’ director of consuting Ian Mulheirn

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