Lab 2012: Time for a fundamental rethinking of housing strategy

There’s a growing recognition housing is a priority not just to meet a pressing social need, but also as a key element of a growth strategy.


At the Labour conference today, shadow chancellor Ed Balls called for 100,000 more affordable homes to be built. There’s a growing recognition housing is a priority not just to meet a pressing social need, but also as a key element of a growth strategy.

The construction industry has been among the sectors hardest hit by the recession. A big boost in house building would revive this important sector, create jobs, and increase demand.

An apparent constraint on building affordable homes – the homes most needed – is the dire state of the public finances. Yet, as this short animation shows, in this current spending round the government will spend £100 billion in this area. The problem is that 95 per cent of it will go on Housing Benefit – in effect, subsidizing rents – and just 5 per cent on building badly needed homes:

The video makes it clear that we need a fundamental rethinking of housing strategy. Part of the answer is to allow local councils with strong balance sheets to borrow against their housing assets to finance new affordable house building capable of generating a return.

But we also need to drive a shift from current to capital spending over the medium term – reversing the shift from housing capital to housing benefit. In a recently published report, “Together at home: A new strategy for housing” (pdf), the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has suggested a way this could be done, by also embracing a radical localism.

The centre-piece would be a long term strategy to decentralise power and responsibility for housing expenditure to local areas – perhaps local government – with a remit for meeting local housing need, including by increasing housing supply. If Labour was to be really bold and radical on housing, this is an idea it should be taking up.

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14 Responses to “Lab 2012: Time for a fundamental rethinking of housing strategy”

  1. treborc1

    There’s a growing recognition housing is a priority.

    That is so funny, it has to be the worse joke in living memory, but of course it was not a joke was it.

    Housing was needed in 1997 it was needed even more when Labour had it’s immigration frenzy, and it’s needed now, but when Labour can regain it socialism and speak about council housing and not this ridiculous and silly affordable homes.

    The problem is of course is trust, labour said many things in 1996 like free education and then of course at a time of plenty decided to charge students, charge for prescriptions they even thought about charging for GP’s..

    So Ball’s now telling us about 100,000 houses as it this would get the country going again, the problem is of course Balls 100,000 in how many years mate, or would you simple forget it because your back in power, Labour biggest problem is the voters having short memories sadly it’s not that short mate. Trust is the word, and Trust is hard won.

  2. mikems

    I’m concerned that all they can talk about are ‘affordable homes’ which, erm, aren’t affordable to people on the minimum wage.

    I hope they don’t mean building for private rental, because that would deny local authorities rental income that could be reinvested in the local area. It would mean more public money going in subsidy to private landlords.

    They have a chance to kill a whole flock of birds with one stone : council housing. More employment, guaranteed income for local govt, reduced payouts in Housing benefits, lower housing costs for all, greater social integration. It’s win, win, win, win, win.

    But I doubt that they have shaken off the baleful weight of new Labour yet and are not ready for proper policy decisions.

  3. mikems

    ‘Immigration frenzy’?

    I think it is obsessives like yourself – angry and ill-informed, but desperate to find someone to blame – that are in constant frenzy, not sensible people.

  4. Harry Barnes

    Appropriately, it it is the 40th Anniverary of the fight aganist the Housing Finance Act and the start of the Clay Cross Rent Rebellion, see –

  5. treborc1

    You mean Labour did not let in Immigrants then, if they did not why the hell, are labour apologizing for it.

    You mean Labour built social housing, even now not a single word about social; housing.

    It’s the idiots like your self who are what New labour and cannot see past noses.

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