Labour and the Liberal Democrats have both unveiled plans to fight the housing crisis by building hundreds of thousands of homes if they win the general election next month
Labour’s ‘radical’ new manifesto, which was launched yesterday (21 November), sets out how the party would drastically increase the number of council houses built across the country by committing to deliver 100,000 local authority-backed homes a year by 2024.
Jeremy Corbyn’s party added that housing associations would deliver a further 50,000 ‘genuinely affordable’ homes a year over the same period, under its administration.
It also vowed to introduce a £1 billion ‘Fire Safety Fund’ to retrofit sprinklers and other fire safety measures to all high-rise council and housing association tower blocks. The party’s manifesto also includes a promise to launch new mandatory building standards, which would be ‘inspected and enforced’ by the fire brigade.
Labour also said it would scrap permitted development rights for the conversion of office blocks into homes – the only pledge it shares with the Lib Dems.
The party said all new homes would be built to ‘cutting-edge design and green standards’ and cited RIBA Stirling Prize winner Goldsmith Street as an example of what modern council housing could look like.
But a pledge to make all new homes zero-carbon by 2022 appears to have been watered down, with a proposed new ‘zero-carbon homes standard’ being introduced over an unspecified period.
Meanwhile, the Lib Dems also said they would create at least 100,000 homes for social rent each year – with the total number of houses (private and social) reaching a huge 300,000 a year. They said the ‘large increase in the building of social homes’ would be funded through a £130 billion capital infrastructure budget.
The party has also vowed to bring in tougher environmental standards. The party’s manifesto promises to make all new buildings generate as much renewable energy onsite as they need by 2021. Under a Lib Dem government, the party adds, all new buildings would be Passivhaus by 2025.
The pledge comes as the Conservatives ditched their proposal to build 300,000 homes a year, a target they first adopted in November 2017 but have never managed to meet. Conservative housing minister Robert Jenrick said the party would see the delivery of one million homes by 2025, an average of just 200,000 homes a year.
The Conservative Party is expected to publish its manifesto in the coming days.
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RIBA response to Labour and Lib Dems manifestos
Alan Jones, RIBA president
‘Labour’s commitments to tackle the lack of affordable housing and scrap permitted development rights – which allow developments to sidestep vital quality and sustainability standards – are encouraging, but their manifesto lacks clarity on how they plan to raise the quality of homes through the planning system as a whole.
‘We also welcome Labour’s fire safety commitments – fitting sprinklers in all high-rise council and housing association tower blocks and enforcing the removal of dangerous Grenfell style cladding. But all parties including Labour must urgently commit to comprehensive review of all of the UK’s building safety regulations. England’s rules lag shamefully behind those in other countries such as Wales and the USA, putting the public at risk.
‘Tackling the climate emergency in the built environment will be no easy feat. If Labour want to be successful in reducing energy consumption and creating a zero-carbon standard for new homes they should work with architects and other experts who have the skills, knowledge and evidence to ensure that new homes are greener, safer and better designed.’
On the Lib Dems:
‘It’s positive to see the Liberal Democrats recognise the role of the built environment in tackling climate change – calling for all new homes and non-domestic buildings to meet a zero-carbon standard by 2021 and providing free retrofits for residents on low incomes.
‘We also strongly welcome their plans to scrap the ‘office to residential loophole’ – protecting high streets and preventing the creation of poor-quality and potentially dangerous housing. The RIBA has been clear that the solution to the housing crisis does not lie in permitted development, which gives developers the green light to cut corners and sidestep vital quality and environmental standards.
‘Their commitment to building more homes is also positive – especially those for social rent – but numbers must not be at the expense of quality and safety. As events over the past week have shown, our current building regulations are not fit for purpose when it comes to fire safety, and people’s lives are at risk. All political parties must commit to a complete overhaul of the UK’s building safety regulations.’