Labour pledges to build a million homes and redefine affordable housing

Shadow housing secretary John Healey and Jeremy Corbyn

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and shadow housing secretary John Healey have today launched a green paper which sets out to build a million “genuinely affordable homes” over ten years – although the majority will be for social rent, not for sale.

The paper, titled Housing for the Many, was unveiled at the Local Government Association headquarters in London and the party is proposing a more income-linked definition of affordable housing. 

The ambitious plans include a new form of social housing for people who currently wouldn’t qualify for a council house. This new form would be dubbed “living rent homes” and aimed at low-to-middle income families, key workers and younger people. Rents would be set at no more than a third of average local household incomes.

Speaking at the launch of the paper, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, said: “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."

Some the proposals set out for consultation by Labour include: 

  • A new ‘duty to deliver’ affordable housing for councils
  • A new English Sovereign Land Trust
  • New borrowing freedoms and central funding to get councils and housing associations building at scale
  • A fully-fledged new Department for Housing
  • Fast-track reforms to allow tenants to take council and housing association landlords to court if their homes aren’t safe

Commenting on the paper, shadow housing secretary John Healey said: “We will build for those who need it, including the very poorest, with a big boost to new social rented homes. We will also build Labour’s new affordable homes to rent and buy for those in work on ordinary incomes who are priced out of the housing market and being failed by housing policy. The ‘just coping’ class in Britain today who do the jobs we all rely on, from nurses to call centre supervisors to shop staff.”

The role of the private sector has also been highlighted and criticised by the Labour leader who claimed that the UK cannot rely solely on private housebuilders for the construction of affordable homes. "We know by now that we cannot rely on arms-length incentives for private housebuilders, building for profit to solve the crisis,” Corbyn added. “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.”

Responding to the green paper, the Association of Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) has welcomed the Labour Party’s proposals as a welcome addition to the debate but stressed the importance of quality over quantity.

Julian Francis, director of policy and external affairs at ACE, said: “It is clear that the housing market in our country is broken. Everyone agrees that the we have not built enough homes to keep up with demand. This has led to a social crisis as more and more people are locked out of home ownership. We are concerned, however, that when confronted by a crisis of this magnitude, a mindset of “build, build, build” can come to dominate policy making. This would be the wrong approach as it would lead to greater public opposition to development in local communities which can only exacerbate the current crisis.”

To address housing issues, ACE will soon be launching its own report that will outline how greater community engagement and better project design will be the key to unlocking sustainable development opportunities and building the houses the country needs.

Terrie Alafat, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, said:“As we have been saying for a long time, it is absolutely crucial that we focus on affordability. It’s not just a numbers game - yes we need to increase the number of homes we are building but we need to make sure we are building the right homes, in the right places, at the right prices.

“We know that for many people on lower incomes, the only truly affordable option is social rent - and yet not only are we failing to build enough of these homes, we are actually losing them at an alarming rate. Our research predicts we will lose 230,000 homes for social rent between 2012 and 2020, which is simply unacceptable. In recent years the definition of affordable housing has been stretched to breaking point for many people - the time is right for a national debate on what genuinely affordable housing should look like in all parts of the country.”

If you would like to contact Ryan Tute about this, or any other story, please email