Since the Tories came to power in 2010, there are over 200,000 fewer home-owning households, with home ownership falling to its lowest levels since the early 1980’s. The number of under-35’s owning a home has fallen by 20 per cent with average deposits rising to £57,000 compared with £43,000 in 2010. Britain now has the fourth lowest level of home ownership in the EU after we were overtaken by France for the first time since records began.
As a result, more families are being forced into the private rented sector. The number of people living in the private rented sector has increased by 2.5 million since 2010, and one in four families with children now rent privately. The private rented sector is far from affordable with average rents reaching an all-time high of £806 per month and rising. Rents now cost an average of £1,636 more a year than in 2010. Sky high rents are coupled with sub-standard housing in the private rented sector with a third of properties failing to meet decent home standards. Despite the problems of high rents and substandard housing the Tories failed to make any reference to private renters in their election manifesto.
There are often complex reasons for a national crisis, however, the root cause of the UK housing crisis is simple – we are not building enough homes to buy and rent.
Since 2010, Tory Ministers have presided over the lowest levels of house building since the time of David Lloyd George in the 1920s. The Government are nowhere near meeting the housing target of 245,000 a year, build only half the homes needed.
This has not always been the case, however, with successive government’s abandoning the commitment to social housing, the number of social rented properties built has declined from a peak of over 185,000 in 1969/70 to just 25,430 last year. The availability of affordable social rents continues to dwindle with the Government failing to deliver one-for one replacements for homes sold through the Right-to-buy instead only one is being built for every eight sold. Instead of unleashing a property own democracy, research by Inside Housing, found that almost 40 per cent of council homes sold underRight-to-buy are now in the private sector with some rents up to seven times the cost of average social rents.
Through abandoning social housing and pushing people into the private rented sector the taxpayer is forced to subsidise the profits of private landlords with housing benefit spending rising by £4.3 billion since 2010 to over £24 billion a year.
The Government’s Housing and Planning Bill does nothing to address the housing crisis. Starter Homes costing up to £450,000 will replace new council or housing association homes, the forced sale of council homes could see the loss of over 100,000 affordable social rents, and households on modest incomes will see their social rents replaced with market level rents.
Shelter predict the Bill will lead to 180,000 fewer affordable homes to rent and to buy over five years.
The Housing and Planning Bill will worsen the housing crisis, so called affordable homes will force first time buyers into excessive levels of debt, it will do nothing to address sky high rents and sub-standard housing in the private sector, and will reduce the availability of genuinely affordable homes to rent.
Labour will offer a real alternative. Through a national investment bank we will deliver housing of all tenure, to meet all housing needs.
We will reduce the housing benefit bill, not through forcing people into unsustainable mortgage debt or unaffordable private rents, but by moving from benefits to bricks and building the homes we need with the sense of urgency warranted during a time of a national crisis.