Housing

Starmer warned over glaring omission in Labour's six general election pledges: 'I'm disappointed'

Keir Starmer has announced his six 'first steps for change'. Housing is nowhere to be seen

Keir Starmer has laid out his six “first steps for change” if his Labour Party wins the general election. Anti-social behaviour makes the cut, as does a new “Border Security Command”. But housing was nowhere to be seen – to the consternation of campaigners.

Unveiled at an event in Essex, the pledges include 40,000 extra NHS appointments a week, the recruitment of 6,500 new teachers in key subjects, and “tough spending rules” to deliver economic stability.

But the absence of a thoughtful strategy to tackle the housing crisis sparked concern, with activists highlighting the role the crisis plays in driving poverty.

“The housing crisis is the biggest issue this country faces and is the root cause of many other social issues,” said housing campaigner Kwajo Tweneboa. “His current six pledges can’t truly be achieved without addressing the fact so many don’t have a decent and safe roof over their heads.

“I am disappointed. Many are looking to Labour to be radical and forthright with their approach to tackling the crisis and homelessness. This just appears as if they don’t want to fully commit to it and I would be lying if I said otherwise.”

Labour’s housing plan acknowledges a housing emergency and a chronic shortage of homes. It focuses on protecting “our natural spaces” and freeing up “grey belt land” for building.

Speaking in 2023, Jeremy Corbyn revealed his first words on the steps of Downing Street would have been: “Today rough sleeping, homelessness ends. There will be no more homeless people in this country. The state will provide.”

Housing was also not explicitly mentioned in the 10 key pledges Starmer made when running for the Labour leadership – many of which have now been abandoned. His new promise to “use counter-terror powers to smash the criminal boat gangs” stands in contrast to his leadership aim of an “immigration system based on compassion and dignity”.

A failure to put housing at the top of the agenda falls short on fairness for young people, said Liz Emerson, co-founder of the Intergenerational Foundation. “We are disappointed that solving the housing crisis for younger generations is not part of these pledges. The housing crisis is driving record levels of child destitution and record child homelessness,” Emerson told the Big Issue.

“Councils are warning that spending on temporary accommodation is driving them into bankruptcy. Intergenerational fairness should be at the heart of a future government’s policy-making.”

Ahead of the election, the Big Issue has released a Blueprint for Change, outlining how party leaders can address poverty. Policy suggestions on housing include keeping Local Housing Allowance unfrozen, ending street homelessness by 2030, and redefine affordable housing away from being based on 80% of market rate.

A lack of a visible plan to tackle the housing crisis could impact Starmer’s Labour in the election, warned Ben Twomey, chief executive of Generation Rent.

“It’s concerning that the Labour Party’s new six pledges don’t address housing. With rents skyrocketing and homelessness hitting record highs, every party needs to realise that the housing crisis won’t resolve on its own,” Twomey told the Big Issue.

“Our homes are the foundation of our lives, but millions of renters have homes that make us poorer or sick. They are eager to vote for a party that has good ideas to fix the housing crisis, and we look forward to working with all parties to make sure they make their best offer to renters at the election.”

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

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
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