How would Labour address the Housing Shortage?

Housing remains a key political issue.  Labour gave it significant focus at their conference back in October last year.  Angela Rayner, Shadow Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, provided further detail on Labour’s plans to deliver housing at the UK’s Real Estate Investment and Infrastructure Forum in May. 

There were overarching themes in the speech: economic growth; local support for development; and speed of getting spades in the ground.  I have done my best to tease out elements of the speech into separate topics below. 


Labour has pledged to build 1.5million homes over the next five years.  This is in line with the current government’s 300,000 homes per year target.  So, no more ambitious in terms of numbers but there will be a difference if Labour can actually deliver it. The Tories have consistently failed.

Local housing targets will be reintroduced.  The numbers will be delivered through local delivery as well as new towns.  Mayors will be given “tools they need to deliver homes in their areas, revitalising brownfield first, unlocking ugly, disused grey belt land for housebuilding and setting tough new conditions for releasing that land”

Affordable housing:

The Affordable Homes Programme will be made more flexible and central government will work with local leaders to use funding more effectively.

New Towns:

An expert independent taskforce will be set up within 6 months of an election win with New Town sites selected within a year.  Labour is taking inspiration from the post-war period when a strategic approach delivered rapid growth. 

A New Towns Code would set out criteria developers must meet in the settlements: a “gold standard” aim of 40% affordable housing; buildings with character; tree lined streets; design that pays attention to the locality; good transport links; public transport and services; access to nature and play areas.

Perhaps I am an old cynical planning lawyer (more than possible) but I find it hard to equate these sentences: “new large settlements must be built in the right place, in partnership with local people.  This is why an independent taskforce will be set up to help choose the right sites…”

An independent taskforce might well identify the most appropriate locations for new towns.  But will that necessarily garner local support?  I am also suspicious of the social and affordable homes “gold standard aim of 40%”.  I do not wish to be too cynical so I will not mention the previous Labour governments eco towns programme!

Green Belt Reclassification:

Whilst Labour still proposes a brownfield first policy, they also propose use of the “grey belt”.

The green belt washes over vast areas, not all of them worthy of preservation.  The words “ugly, disused” are those used by Angela Rayner to describe the grey belt.  In effect, areas of the designated green belt that are abandoned buildings and car parks etc.

Grey belt development will need to deliver affordable homes, new public services and improved green spaces.  Brownfield sites will secure planning approval quicker.  It is unclear on what basis and whether once designated as grey belt those sites are also “brownfield” for these purposes.

More information on Labour’s policies will be revealed when we see the manifesto ahead of the general election on 4 July 2024.





Posted on 06/05/2024 by Ortolan

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