“A Labour government would rip up the government’s definition of affordable housing and instead bring in a measure linked to people’s incomes, Jeremy Corbyn will say on Thursday.
A report, Housing for the Many, accuses ministers of stretching the term affordable to breaking point to include homes let at up to 80% of market rents – more than £1,500 a month in some areas – and homes for sale up to £450,000. “It has become a deliberately malleable phrase, used to cover up a shift in government policy towards increasingly expensive and insecure homes,” it says.
The Labour leader and John Healey, the shadow housing secretary, set out the party’s plans to link affordability to people’s incomes on tenures including social rent, living rent and low-cost ownership, in the 40-page green paper, to be launched on Thursday.
Labour says one “common yardstick” is whether rent or a mortgage costs more than one-third of a household’s after-tax income.
The green paper says Labour is keen to help not just the poorest in society, but also “the ‘just coping’ class in Britain today who do the jobs we all rely on – IT workers, HGV drivers, joiners, warehouse managers, lab technicians, nurses, teaching assistants, call centre supervisors, shop staff. They are the backbone of the British economy and heart of our public services.”
Britain faces an acute housing affordability crisis, with around 1.7m private rented households currently paying more than a third of their income in rent and 1m owner-occupiers paying more than a third of their income on their mortgage.
Corbyn will say: “When housing has become a site of speculation for a wealthy few, leaving the many unable to access a decent, secure home, something has gone seriously wrong. We need to restore the principle that a decent home is a right owed to all, not a privilege for the few. And the only way to deliver on that right for everyone, regardless of income, is through social housing.”
The paper includes a series of other measures, including creating a new Department of Housing and an independent watchdog, along the lines of the Office for Budget Responsibility, to assess the government’s policies and ensure they are delivered.
A Labour government would also end the right to buy, which the Cameron government extended to cover tenants in social housing, risking the depletion of the supply of social housing. Labour would also lift the cap on borrowing by local authorities, to allow councils to build more social housing themselves.
A Conservative spokesperson said: “Labour would kick away the housing ladder from everyone living in council houses by taking away their right to buy, just as Labour did in Wales. Under the Conservatives, we are investing £9bn to build more good-quality homes that people can afford and have seen the highest number of new homes being built for a decade.”
Healey will say: “The housing market is broken and current Conservative housing policy is failing to fix it. We have to build more affordable homes to make homes more affordable.”