Construction industry bodies have welcomed Labour’s promise to make housing and domestic energy efficiency capital spending priorities.
At Labour’s final party conference before the general election, it promised to build at least 200,000 new homes a year by 2020 and to make housing a capital spending priority, without increasing borrowing.
National Housing Federation chief executive David Orr welcomed the commitment, but warned that “even 200,000 a year by the end of the next parliament won’t be enough after decades of building less than half of the homes we need”.
“We’re calling on all parties to commit to end the housing crisis within a generation. To end the crisis all politicians need to raise their sights and commit to the numbers of new homes that will genuinely meet the need that now exists,” he said.
The NHF also welcomed Labour’s proposals for New Homes Corporations, to help achieve the 200,000-a-year new homes target.
NHCs would be established by local authorities and work with communities and housing associations and developers to assemble land and build out new residential sites quickly.
NHF head of policy Rachel Fisher said: “New Homes Corporations have the potential to create the kind of long term local approach that is required to speed up housing delivery.
“By bringing together local authorities, housing associations and housing developers in strategic partnerships the New Homes Corporations could play a pivotal role in ending the housing crisis within a generation.”
Ed Miliband attacks hoarding ‘big developers’
In a party political broadcast the Labour leader said big developers were sitting on “hundreds of thousands of places for homes with planning permission” to increase land values and promised to “get tough” on them.
But the Home Builders Federation said homebuilders “completely reject the accusation” that they hoard land capable of providing new homes.
A spokesman for the organisation said three independent studies had “all concluded housebuilders do not landbank [with] further recent evidence that supports this conclusion”.
The National House Building Council also welcomed the Labour leader’s commitment to “putting housing front and centre of his policy” and said it looked forward to working with Labour on policies to support the delivery of more high quality new homes.
Federation of Master Builders chief executive Brian Berry said it was encouraging that the Labour Party was taking housing so seriously, but added new policies were required to help SME housebuilders deliver more homes.
“What we do need is positive policies to enable and encourage SME house builders to build out brownfield sites.
“The best way to support the development of smaller brownfield sites would be for local authorities to identify and allocate a higher proportion of small sites than they are currently.
“Further streamlining of the planning application process would also help, especially if sites of up to 10 units were given a ‘redline’ planning application route whereby only basic information would be required to obtain planning consent,” he said.
Shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint announced that Labour would provide half a million free home energy reports a year and make 200,000 homes warm every year through the Energy Company Obligation, as well as providing one million interest free loans for home owners to heat their home.
Mr Berry said: “The package of measures announced by Labour, including focusing ECO funding on low income homes and bringing the private rented sector up to scratch, are good first steps towards making energy efficiency a national infrastructure priority.”
“However, given the scale of the challenge, a future Labour government will need to be much more bold. There are 26m homes in the UK, 85 per cent of which will still be in use in 2050.
“The simplest and most effective way of incentivising all home owners to continue to invest in the ongoing improvement of their homes is to adopt a lower 5 per cent VAT rate for housing renovation and repair work,” he added.
UK-GBC director of policy and communications John Alker said Labour was “hitting the right notes on the green economy”.
“After last year’s singular focus on the price freeze, it’s refreshing to see Labour put household energy efficiency front and centre of its energy plans.
“There is also a clarity of thinking that the global challenge of tackling climate change is not a burden to be shouldered but an opportunity to be grasped,” he said.
During his leader’s speech, Ed Miliband pledged to increase the number of young people taking on apprenticeships by 2025, so that the number of apprentices would equal those attending university.
UCATT general secretary Steve Murphy welcomed the target. He said: “Ed Miliband today set out his vision for the next decade which will create a fairer more equal society.
“His goals on wages, apprenticeships and pay will ensure young workers gain the skills they need to succeed while also ensuring that workers are properly and fairly paid for the work they do.”