1. ITV Report

Miliband plan to boost housing

Ed Miliband at housing site in Stevenage. Photo: ITV News Anglia

Construction giants' profits are going "through the roof" but not enough houses are being built, Ed Miliband will say during a visit to Stevenage as he launches a commission to look at ways of tackling the shortage in supply.

Mr Miliband will announce that four Labour-controlled councils have signed up to be "right to grow" areas which, if his party wins the 2015 general election, would be given support through the planning process to resolve cross-border disputes with neighbouring authorities opposed to developments.

The Labour leader will outline measures to tackle the "worst housing shortage for a generation" as part of a plan to build 200,000 homes a year in England by 2020.

Ed Miliband visits Stevenage. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Referring to Barratt, Berkeley, Persimmon and Taylor Wimpey, Mr Miliband will say: "Profits for our four biggest housing developers are going through the roof.

"They have soared 557% since this Government took office - even though homes have been built at their slowest rate witnessed in peacetime for almost a century.

"But there are large amounts of land - enough to build more than a million homes - earmarked for houses which have not been built. Developers need a bank of land with which to work. But sometimes they, and other landowners, are hoarding it.

"The next Labour government will give councils powers to charge fees or, if necessary, purchase such land, so that developers have an incentive to do what they went into business to do.

"We will back home builders. But we will tell land hoarders with sites that have planning permission that they must use it or lose it."

The commission set up by Labour under ex-BBC Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons, which was announced at the party's conference earlier this year, will begin work looking at the "right to grow" scheme and the "use it or lose it" powers.

It will also consider how councils can identify sites for new towns and garden cities, which could be underwritten by Treasury guarantees.

The commission will look at simplifying rules surrounding the Housing Revenue Account to give local authorities more flexibility in how existing public funding is spent and examine how communities can benefit from windfalls gained from the granting of planning permission.

Speaking in Stevenage, Mr Miliband will say the Labour-controlled authority there is being prevented from ambitious housebuilding plans because of the objections of neighbouring North Hertfordshire Council.

Stevenage, Oxford, Luton and York have signed up to become the first "right to grow" local authorities, with an immediate potential to build 40,000 new homes.

Labour see legislating for the right to grow as one of the key policies to begin tackling the housing shortages.

The planning inspectorate would examine different local plans, and arbitrate between authorities to allocate housing based on need, and then oversee a fast track consultation to agree housing development.

Hitting out at "home blocking" councils, Mr Miliband will say: "Of course it is right that local communities have a say about where housing goes. But councils cannot be allowed to frustrate continually the efforts of others councils to get homes built.

"So the next Labour government will unblock this planning process and unlock the potential to build tens of thousands of new homes where they are needed."

The Labour leader will accuse the Government of focusing on schemes such as Help to Buy which drive up demand, but of not doing enough to improve the supply of new housing.

"I want to send a clear message today: we will tackle those councils that block homes, those developers that hoard land and this government that fails to act on the worst housing shortages for a generation," he will say.

"We will stand up for home builders and first time buyers. And take on those who stand in the way of working people and their children having the decent homes they deserve.

"David Cameron is presiding over the lowest levels of homes built in peacetime since the 1920s - and already families are suffering from some of the worst housing shortages for a generation. This is now part of a cost-of-living crisis for millions of people for whom the dream of home ownership is fading into the distance.

"The Government has focused almost solely on increasing demand for housing and, while tinkering with planning rules, has done next to nothing to increase supply. The result is a broken market where it now takes ordinary families over 20 years to save enough for a deposit and those renting privately are paying as much as half their income on rent.

"At this time of year, when family is so important, there are parents who fear their children will never get a place of their own. And there are millions of young people who fear they may never be able to get on the housing ladder; never invite their parents round for Christmas dinner.

"At current rates we will be two million homes short of what Britain needs by 2020. If families are to prosper and our country is to succeed, Britain needs new homes. And the next Labour government will lead a non-stop drive to build them."

More on this story