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Labour launches housing commission to tackle 'land hoarders'

Ed Miliband has launched a new housing commission today to tackle land hoarding developers, in what it calls a “non-stop drive” to boost UK housebuilding.

In a speech in Stevenage, Ed Miliband clamped down on councils that “block homes” in a move to support first time buyers and address the “worst housing shortage for a generation”.

The independent housing commission led by Sir Michael Lyons will look into Labour’s proposals on a council’s ‘right to grow’ and Labour’s ‘use it or lose it’ housing policy, which would ramp up pressure on developers hoarding land.

The housing commission will also focus on:

How local authorities would look to identify, plan and deliver new towns and garden cities

Simplifying rules around the Housing Revenue Account to give local authorities more flexibility over how public funding is spent

Ensuring communities get larger share of windfall gains from granting planning permissions and have more say in how they are used, including providing more social and affordable housing locally

Chartered Institute of Housing chief executive Grainia Long, who has been appointed to the commission said the panel will look to “identify potential solutions to [the UK’s housing] crisis and the action required to build the homes we need”.

Mr Miliband said Labour will support local authorities like new town Stevenage wanting to build new homes and will condemn those like neighbouring North Hertfordshire that he will say blocks developments.

He added: “The next Labour government will give councils powers to charge fees or, if necessary, purchase such land, so that developers have an incentive to do what they went into business to do.

“We will back home builders. But we will tell land hoarders with sites that have planning permission that they must use it or lose it.”

But Home Builders Federation director of economic affairs John Stewart said “house builders do not land bank”.

He added: “There is a strong financial incentive to start on site as soon as they get an implementable planning permission. However, many thousands of plots classed as having a permission are being delayed because of delays in local authorities clearing ‘planning conditions’.

“Of the oft referred to land bank of 400,000, around half are on sites already being built, leaving only about a years supply of land, well under what all experts who have looked at the issue recognise as necessary.”

Conservative MP and housing minister Kris Hopkins accused the last Labour government of “punishing aspiration and undermining home ownership”.

He added:  “We have a long-term plan to help self-builders: cutting their taxes and asking councils to provide them with land. We are also working with mortgage lenders, and investing in self-build community groups.

“Labour need to say whether they support our moves to scrap taxes on self-builders. Otherwise, it is clear Labour want to punish self-builders with punitive taxes.”

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