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Manifesto Check: Labour’s housing policy won’t help those most in need

Miliband might ease the squeeze in Canary Wharf but what about the rest of the country? Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA

In its manifesto, the Labour Party presents its plans for housing under the remit of “Helping our families and communities to thrive”. Placed within the context of the biggest housing crisis in a generation, with rising homelessness cited as the obvious indication, Labour presents a range of measures to ensure that “everyone should be able to live in a secure home, whether they rent or buy”.

The main premise of the manifesto is to make owner-occupation more accessible through increasing supply and affordability. This policy trend reflects a cross-party consensus on promoting owner-occupation as the tenure of choice, and positioning this as an aspirational norm.

A second policy highlights the role of private renting as the next best option. Private renting is to be more attractive through increased regulation and security of tenure. The Labour Party’s plans regarding private renting regulation are clear up to a point and acknowledge the increasingly prominent role that private renting will take in the future,suggesting more intervention than is currently the case. However, it is not entirely clear how such regulation will be implemented, how variable standards and practices across the sector will be addressed, and who will be responsible.

The manifesto highlights potential reform to local authority housing finance but it is not clear how such reform will play out or how state funding will work in practice. What is really striking, however, is the limited focus on social housing and its significant current role in housing provision for families and vulnerable groups in society. Housing associations are not mentioned at all and local authorities’ housing role appears to be limited to “enabling” and facilitating private sector partnerships. This reflects cross-party consensus on reductions in the role of the public sector and emphasis on private sector provision. However, it is not at all clear how vulnerable households would be catered for by the private sector.

Labour promises to build at least 200,000 new homes a year until 2020. This will go some way to mitigate the shortage of available homes in areas of economic growth and for those in a position to become owner-occupiers. However, it will not solve the difficulties of those who are experiencing the extreme effects of the housing crisis. The shortage of available affordable homes to rent across the UK will still affect those households in the most acute need.

Welcome to The Conversation’s Manifesto Check, where academics from across the UK subject each party’s manifesto to unbiased, expert scrutiny.

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