Angela Rayner says Labour will ‘turbo-charge’ housebuilding

Angela Rayner at UK REIF

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner has set out the party’s plans for a wave of housebuilding and the creation of the next generation of new towns “fit for the future”.

Speaking at the UK Real Estate Investment and Infrastructure Forum (UKREIF) conference in Leeds, Rayner, who is also the Shadow Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, said Labour will “back developers who deliver” new private sector housing development.

Evoking the post-war 1945 Atlee government which built millions of homes after the Second World War, she said Labour will aim to build 1.5m new homes across the country over the next parliament.

“Labour’s New Towns are just one part of our ambitious house-building agenda which will see swathes of good quality, affordable houses built in the national interest.

“Developers who deliver on their obligations to build high quality, well-designed and sustainable affordable housing, with green spaces and transport links and schools and GP surgeries nearby, will experience a new dawn under Labour. But those who have wriggled out of their responsibilities for too long will be robustly held to account.

“Labour’s towns of the future will be built on the foundations of our past. The post-war period taught us that when the government plays a strategic role in housebuilding, we can turbo-charge growth to the benefit of working people across Britain. That is what Labour’s plans will achieve.”

Rayner’s speech comes as fewer than 70,000 planning applications were in the last quarter of 2023, the lowest on record, and fewer even than during the height of the pandemic.

Rayner said a “New Towns Code” would include a “gold standard target” of 40% affordable homes, including a mix of social and council homes, robust design codes that fit in with nearby areas, high density housing with good links to town and city centres, and access to nature and parks.

Reaction from the housebuilding sector has been positive.

Richard Beresford, Chief Executive of the National Federation of Builders (NFB), said: “Although election season is the time for grand promises, Labour’s clear and sustained signal on housing delivery and planning reform tells voters they are not afraid to be bold.

“It is the first clear dividing line between the Conservative government and a party who see themselves as a government in waiting.”

Calling it a ‘local housing recovery plan,’ Rayner said they would focus on stalled sites, give Mayors more tools to deliver homes, see grey belt used and unleash the ‘biggest wave of affordable and social housing in a generation.’

Saghir Hussain, CEO of Manchester based architect firm Create It Studios, said: “Labour’s early pledge to reform the planning system, build more homes and create new towns, is a clear sign that housing is going to be seen as a key issue in the run up to the General Election. Introducing housing targets and overhauling the planning system is only going to be worth doing if funding is made available for well staffed planning teams. Without this new homes are going to remain hard to push forward.

“I would also like to see greater support for SME developers as part of the strategy during the next Government. Within the regions these developers have the potential to be the lifeblood of new home delivery, but it is currently challenging for them to design new sites that are practically and financially feasible.

“As in industry in the North West, we have sat and watched funding pumped into the south for the regeneration of new towns, so we can only hope that greater focus will be on creating new towns within reach of cities like Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool.”

She also said Labour will ban no fault evictions, “no ifs no buts”. And pledged to give first-time buyers ‘first dibs’ on new developments in their communities, “with a comprehensive mortgage guarantee scheme for those who don’t have access to the bank of mum and dad.”

She added: “We’ll end the mediaeval leasehold system, with root and branch reform, and we will build the houses that the next generation so desperately needs.”

She also described how she visited a new development in her Ashton constituency – a partnership between a developer, Tameside council, along with Homes England, which delivered 62 new homes for affordable rent.

“For families across Tameside, this development will provide secure homes. That’s what Labour is about.”