A cabinet minister will warn that many young people are being “exiled” from the neighbourhood that they grew up in due to a lack of affordable housing.
Greg Clark, Communities Secretary, will tell council leaders that it is a “defining test” for any government to provide homes that keep the “chain of community.”
Acting Leader of the Labour party, Harriet Harman, will tell the conference that the housing shortage is now “chronic”. She will also say that Conservative plans to extend Right to Buy to housing association tenants will make matters worse.
The four hopeful Labour leaders – Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall and Jeremy Corbyn – will also speak at the annual Local Government Association conference in Harrogate, detailing ideas on housing and decentralisation.
In his first major speech since joining the cabinet, Mr. Clark will set out a proposal to hand powers to England’s cities and regions, pressing council leaders to “take power now [from Whitehall]”.
Cabinet Minister Will Warn that the Young Face Housing Exile
Mr. Clark will argue that devolving transport, skills and housing budgets to local authorities on collective and individual terms will help release economic opportunities and create “a nation of muscular communities – north and south, town and country.”
However, he will also accept the scale of the challenge that the country faces to ensure housing supply keeps up with demand and the social dislocation caused by the shortage of affordable housing to buy or rent in many areas of the country.
He will say: “For centuries, to be exiled – to be sent away – was considered to be an extreme penalty, reserved for the most serious of offences against the community.
“Yet in many parts of our country, it has become normal for young people to leave, though not out of choice. This might be to find work, but more and more, it is to find a home that they can afford.
“If we want to maintain the chain of community and a place for the next generation, then we must make sure we have the homes to welcome them to. The responsibility lies with us – national and local leaders alike.
“It is a defining test of our generation of leaders that we care for and resolve the fears and foreboding of the next generation when it comes to that most basic of questions – where and what will I call home?”1
The amount of new homes completed in 2014 – 118,760 – was substantially higher than in 2013, but still much lower than the 2007 peak, before the financial crisis.
Ms Harman will say that Conservative plans to extend the Right to Buy scheme, by requiring housing associations to sell their properties at a discount to their tenants will “make the affordable housing crisis worse.”
The scheme would be partly funded by forcing local councils to sell off their most valuable assets when they become vacant.
Councils will then be expected to replace this stock on a one-for-one basis, however, the National Housing Federation (NHF) warns that since 2012, just 46% of homes sold in this way have been replaced, reducing the overall number of properties for rent.
Ms Harman will also say that ministers have not explained how the scheme will work, and risks worsening already falling homeownership levels and the length of time people have to wait to buy a house.
She will continue: “Ultimately, we’ll see what the Government brings forward, but the test for any housing policy must be whether it eases rather than deepens the housing crisis.
“Proposals which don’t address the key problem – the chronic shortage of homes – will see the dream of homeownership drift further and further out of reach.”1