Five Things Labour Can Do to Solve the Social Housing Crisis

The recent general election resulted in a landslide victory for Labour, ushering in a new government after 14 years of Conservative rule. While this marks a new beginning, the new administration faces numerous challenges, with Britain’s social housing crisis being one of the most pressing issues. Incoming Housing Minister, Angela Rayner, has taken over from Conservative Michael Gove, who stepped down as an MP following the general election. Rayner, who grew up in social housing on a council estate in Stockport and became a carer for her mother at a young age, has been a strong advocate for social housing. She has pledged to deliver “the biggest boost in affordable and social housing for a generation” and has set ambitious plans to address the crisis. But even before she gets her foot in the door and begins the difficult job of addressing what is a housing sector at breaking point, we explore five things that the Labour government can do to tackle the social housing crisis…

Increase Land Availability for Development

One of the most significant steps Labour can take to address the housing crisis is to free up more land for development. A severe lack of available land has hindered the construction of affordable homes. By reviewing and potentially revising green belt policies, local authorities could identify areas where land could be better utilised for housing. This approach would involve:

  • Conducting thorough reviews of green belt land to assess its current utility.
  • Reallocating underutilised or poorly performing green belt areas for residential development.
  • Encouraging sustainable and environmentally friendly building practices in these newly available areas.

Empower Local Authorities

Restoring power to local authorities is another crucial measure. In the past, local authorities had the ability to build affordable homes based on the specific needs of their communities. Recently, the responsibility has shifted more towards developers, which can result in imbalanced development. To address this, Labour can:

  • Provide adequate funding to local authorities for housing projects.
  • Encourage closer collaboration between local authorities and developers.
  • Develop tailored building programs that address the unique needs of different regions.
Buildings Permit concept with imaginary cadastral on digital tablet – building activity and construction industry with General Urban Plan

Reform the Planning System

The planning system has suffered from over a decade of tweaks and half-baked reforms. A comprehensive reform of the planning system is essential to streamline processes and encourage the development of affordable housing. Labour’s commitment to planning reform includes:

  • Implementing clear and consistent national policies to guide local planning decisions.
  • Simplifying the planning approval process to reduce delays and bureaucracy.
  • Ensuring that planning reforms support the goal of increasing affordable housing supply.

Boost Funding for Affordable Housing Projects

Concentrating funding in the right areas is vital to address the social housing shortfall. This includes not only increasing the overall budget for affordable housing but also ensuring that funds are allocated effectively. Labour can:

  • Direct more resources to regions with the highest demand for affordable housing.
  • Support innovative funding mechanisms, such as public-private partnerships, to leverage additional investment.
  • Monitor and evaluate the impact of funding to ensure it achieves the desired outcomes.

Implement Immediate Policy Changes

Labour can make immediate policy changes to address urgent issues within the housing sector. One such policy is the ban on Section 21 ‘No-Fault’ evictions, which would provide greater security for tenants in private rented accommodation. Additional immediate actions could include:

  • Introducing rent controls to keep housing costs affordable for low-income families.
  • Expanding tenant rights and protections to prevent unfair evictions and improve living conditions.
  • Supporting initiatives that promote the construction of diverse housing options, including social, council, and mixed-tenure homes.

The Bottom Line

The incoming government has a golden opportunity (albeit one rife with difficult obstacles to be overcome) to address the social housing crisis with a comprehensive and multifaceted approach. By increasing land availability, empowering local authorities, reforming the planning system, boosting funding for affordable housing, and implementing immediate policy changes, Labour can begin to make a significant impact. New Housing Minister Angela Rayner’s personal experience and dedication to the cause could provide a strong foundation for these efforts. With the right strategies, robust financial planning, and political will, Labour can usher in a new era of affordable and social housing, ensuring that all citizens have access to safe, secure, and affordable homes.