The future of the left since 1884

Tackling the housing crisis: the Lyons Commission

There is a housing crisis in Britain that can no longer be ignored. If we carry on as we are, by 2020 there will be two million too few homes in Britain. This chronic shortage of housing affects families and...


There is a housing crisis in Britain that can no longer be ignored. If we carry on as we are, by 2020 there will be two million too few homes in Britain. This chronic shortage of housing affects families and communities across the country. It’s affecting young people and families for whom the dream of home ownership is fading into the distance. Those renting privately are paying record sums, spending on average 41% of their income. If you’ve just joined a waiting list for a social home, there are 1.85 million families already in the queue.

But this crisis doesn’t just affect those in need of a decent home at a price they can afford to rent or buy. Many parents who already own their own home are worried about where their children will live and their kids are looking more than ever before to the “bank of mum and dad”. It’s affecting those who want to upsize to a bigger home but are finding they can’t bridge the gap between what they own and where they want to move to.

So tackling the housing shortage, central to the cost-of-living crisis, must also be central to our offer to the country at the next election. That’s why Ed Miliband has travelled to Stevenage today to launch our Housing Commission, chaired by Sir Michael Lyons, which will draw up a roadmap for increasing housebuilding to over 200,000 homes a year by 2020.

It’s a big ambition. As a country we’re not even building half the number of homes we need and David Cameron is presiding over the lowest levels of homes built in peacetime since the 1920s. But, if home ownership is to be a realistic aspiration for the next generation, and rents are to be affordable, then we need a big increase in the number of homes built across the country.

We need councils to become ‘homebuilders’ and the next Labour Government will help by giving them a ‘right to grow’. Local authorities that want to expand will have access to a fast-track planning process to resolve any disputes with neighbouring authorities that are blocking development. The commission will also explore how we can bring about a new era of regeneration and redevelopment to make the most of our towns and cities.

Labour is determined to reform the land market and development industry. We will tackle land hoarding,  whereby some private developers and speculators hold onto land as it grows in value instead of building homes on it. So councils will be given powers to charge developers fees when they are sitting on land with planning permission and holding back development, and proper compulsory purchase order powers. We also want to support more firms to enter into the market and encourage small-scale and self-build so we can make the most of all opportunities to create a thriving housebuilding industry.

By itself, the private sector has never produced the number of homes we need and so we will be exploring how we can get councils, together with housing associations, back into the business of building again.

Given the severity of the shortage, we will need some big scale solutions. New Towns and Garden Cities played an important role in delivering housing in the past. The commission will be looking at how new plans for a new generation of New Towns and Garden Cities can be realised in a way that benefits local communities.

These are just some of the ways the next Labour Government will deal with the housing shortage which is central to the cost-of-living crisis. Nobody should be in any doubt about our determination to double house-building, get our construction industry working again and to give families the security of a home they can afford.

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