Housing

Labour manifesto: What we learned about Keir Starmer's plan to end the UK's housing crisis

The Labour manifesto includes a commitment to build social rent homes and ‘build on the lessons of the past’ to end homelessness

Labour leader Keir Starmer launches manifesto including promises to fix the housing crisis

Labour leader Keir Starmer unveiled the party's manifesto in Manchester. Image: Anthony Devlin/Getty Images

There were few surprises in Keir Starmer’s Labour manifesto as he pledged to “rebuild the country”, which finds itself embroiled in a housing crisis with rising homelessness, rents and homeownership out of reach for many.

Fresh from going head-to-head with Rishi Sunak in Wednesday’s (12 June) Sky News debate, Starmer’s plan put wealth creation as top priority. 

Many of Labour’s housing policies had already been announced ahead of the launch with Starmer promising “stability rather than the chaos of the Tories”.

Some have been points of contention in the televised debates with Starmer facing accusations of “concreting over the countryside” with plans to build on the ‘grey belt’.

The Labour leader also said young people’s dreams of homeownership are over with Sunak admitting it is “too hard” to own your own home. The party’s manifesto outlined plans to work with local authorities to help first-time buyers get priority on buying homes and a permanent mortgage guarantee scheme to help buyers save for deposits.

“Labour’s first steps for change are a downpayment on our long-term plan for the country – an immediate repair job on the damage that has been caused under 14 years of Conservative chaos and decline,” said Starmer at the manifesto launch in Manchester.

“We know we can’t wave a magic wand and pretend that everything will be fixed overnight.”

Here’s what Keir Starmer promised to do about the UK housing crisis.

No-fault evictions to be immediately abolished

Renters have been waiting five years for the Tories to deliver on their promise of ending no-fault evictions, which allow tenants to be evicted from their homes without a landlord required to give a reason.

That wait goes on after the Renters Reform Bill failed to make it into law before Sunak called a general election on 4 July.

The Big Issue’s Blueprint for Change called on the next government to abolish no-fault evictions during their first 12 months in charge. 

Big Issue is demanding an end to poverty this general election. Will you sign our open letter to party leaders?

The Conservatives pledged to scrap no-fault evictions following court reforms.

The Labour manifesto promises to immediately axe them among a few other measures to support renters.

The party promised to “empower renters to challenge unreasonable rent increases” as well as extending Awaab’s Law to the private sector.

Named after Awaab Ishak – a toddler who died due to exposure to damp and mould in his Rochdale home – Awaab’s Law requires landlords to take swift action to fix health hazards but currently only applies to social housing.

Tom Darling, campaign manager of the Renters’ Reform Coalition, said: “We welcome Labour’s continued commitment to ‘immediately abolish’ no-fault evictions – a crucial first step to rebalance renters’ rights – as well as other proposals like extending Awaab’s Law to private renters.

“However, we have urged all parties that they need to go much further for private renters. Preventing new evictions grounds being used as no-fault evictions, and limits on how much rent can be increased within a tenancy – only then will we have a system that offers renters real security in their own homes.”

Ben Beadle, the chief executive of the National Residential Landlord Association, said the removal of no-fault evictions “needs to include giving the sector time to properly prepare for it”.

A cross-government strategy to end homelessness that harks back to Labour’s past

Few governments have come as close to ending homelessness as the last time Labour was in power.

The number of households living in temporary accommodation halved between 2005 and 2010 despite the impact of the 2008 recession while the Rough Sleepers Unit, led by Baroness Louise Casey significantly reduced rough sleeping.

The manifesto promised to “build on the lessons of the past” with a cross-government strategy to end homelessness working with local councils and mayors like Sadiq Khan and Andy Burnham.

The move has earned praise from housing and homelessness organisations.

“Any new government needs to take an invest to save approach if we are to be successful in reducing homelessness and rough sleeping,” said John Glenton, executive director of care and support at Riverside housing association.

“The last Labour government realised this and more than halved the number of households living in temporary accommodation between Q3 of 2005 and Q2 of 2010. This achievement was even sustained during and after the 2008 global finance crisis which at the time sparked the deepest UK recession since World War II. 

“However, tackling England’s housing and homelessness crisis will be an even tougher challenge for whoever forms the next government as the public finances have worsened and so has England’s housing crisis.”

Matt Downie, Crisis chief executive, praised the move for showing a political will to end homelessness.

“It is hugely welcoming to see the Labour Party recognising the desperate need for a cross-government strategy to end homelessness,” said Downie. “The situation across Britain is stark. Homelessness is rising and with it comes damaging consequences that can last for generations.

“We have said time and time again that homelessness is not inevitable. With the right commitment, and political will, we can truly build a future free from homelessness.”

1.5 million homes including a commitment to build more social rented homes

Labour has committed to building 1.5 million homes over the next parliament.

That’s in line with the 300,000 homes per year the Conservatives promised to build by the mid-2020s in their 2019 manifesto. The Tories failed to hit that mark but have promised to build 1.6 million homes if elected.

But Labour’s manifesto differs in that it pledges to prioritise the building of social rented homes.

The chronic shortage of social housing is considered to be one of the driving forces behind the housing crisis with Shelter calling for 90,000 social rent homes to be delivered every year for the next decade.

The Big Issue’s Blueprint for Change has called for the next government to commit to building more affordable and social housing.

Crisis chief executive Downie said: “This level of aspiration to rebuild our depleted housing stock, with a priority on social housing, and bring down homelessness by drawing on the expertise of local communities is a game changer in our mission to tackle one of the greatest injustices of our time.”

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, added that the commitment to building social rent homes is “bold and desperately needed”

Labour also pledged to review the increased Right to Buy discounts introduced in 2012 and increase protections on newly-built social housing as well as bringing back mandatory housing targets and new towns.

No big commitment on Housing First

Ahead of the manifesto launch, there was speculation that Starmer would commit to rolling out a national programme of Housing First to tackle rough sleeping.

The model, which sees rough sleepers given a home alongside support they need to keep it for as long as they need, has earned a reputation for its impact on rough sleeping in other countries, most notably playing a significant role in ending street homelessness in Finland.

While there are scores of small-scale Housing First projects across England, the government has been running pilot schemes in Greater Manchester, Liverpool city region and the West Midlands since 2017.

The pilots are funded up until 2025 with no announcement on their future beyond that date,

A government evaluation published in January this year found 84% of people on the Housing First pilots were living in long-term, social rented accommodation six months after entering the programme, rising to 92% after a year

Labour’s manifesto does not contain any commitment to ramp up Housing First, nor does it contain a promise to end rough sleeping with a hard deadline unlike the 2019 Conservative manifesto. The Tories promised, and failed, to end rough sleeping by this year.

The Big Issue’s Blueprint for Change is calling for all political leaders to commit to ending rough sleeping by 2030, just as Labour’s own London mayor Sadiq Khan has promised in the English capital.

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