Karen Constantine and Andrew Gwynn MP discuss housing at The Labour National Policy Forum in Leeds

Addressing housing at the National Policy Forum


I’m back in Thanet, having returned from Leeds where I spent two days helping to formulate Labour Party policy on homes, communities, the future of work, and more.

It’s a very clear that Labour’s commitment is that homes must built. The commitment in our manifesto is 100,000 homes built per year at genuinely affordable rates to buy or to rent. The truth is that the UK is building fewer homes than at any point since the Second World War.

What most people want is a decent job and a home nearby, within reason. Without a home and a job you can’t build a decent life.

Labour’s response will need to reflect regional variations – dealing with areas where homes are cheap and other areas, such as London and central Manchester where prices have rocketed. The UK has so much inequality of access to either affordable or social housing across the country that those regional variations will need to be accommodated. For instance, in London a working couple earning £100k between them would have little choice to live near to where they work, even with what’s considered a great salary.

We want to build homes of all types that are really desirable places to live in, that reflect the type of accommodation that people want at different stages of their lives. The homes we build must also incorporate our green values by being classed as zero carbon homes.

For some people social housing will always be a better option and a preferred option. Others may wish to buy an affordable home. Andrew Gwynn, Shadow Secretary for State (pictured) made me smile when he said  “none of my constituents come to me saying “Andrew, I can’t find a 5 bed detached house with a double garage””.

We have a huge capacity issue emerging regarding the building of homes. In London alone, 50% of those involved in the building trade are from the EU. What happens post Brexit?

A key challenge to support our home building program is the skills agenda and up skilling of the workforce. This is something unions are playing a large part in addressing. The desire is for proper apprenticeships across age ranges. House building being ‘in-housed’ with decent terms and conditions for public sector employees. It’s going to be tough to draw back those people that have left local government, but we need builders, electricians, building control, surveyors, all sorts. We need to create an environment where workers are proud to be public servants.

It’s going to be tough to tackle the crisis of supply and affordability.

Another housing issue is unlocking the power of councils to build to sell and to build to rent. There is also no doubt that we want to drive decision making down to ground level so that people are empowered within their communities.

I added that I felt we should use Sure Start as a model. What I mean by that is we build such fantastic homes and areas that, like Sure Start, people know those really ‘nice places’ are down to Labour. I pitched for neighbourhood centres and space, including youth facilities, the return of the old fashioned ‘council office’ and particularly inspiring play areas and fitness zones.

The full policy is here:

Secure Homes for All