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Labour promises councils greater powers in housing review

Under a Labour government councils would be given greater powers to give ‘local’ first-time buyers priority access to purchase new homes as they go on sale. 

Ed Miliband has set out the proposals following a Labour-commissioned housing review by Sir Michael Lyons, which sets out a plan for building 200,000 new homes by 2020. 

As part of these plans the Labour leader is promising to increase supply by creating Housing Growth Areas, where councils would be able to “give certainty that building will take place”. 

The Lyons review also suggests that as many as half of all new homes could be reserved for local people for as long as two months once they go on the market. 

It has also been proposed that local authorities will be given powers to restrict the sale of homes so they cannot be sold for buy-to-let, or to those who do not intend to occupy the home. 

However, the Conservatives say the plans aren’t “credible” and Labour is trying to “pull the wool over people’s eyes”. 

Launching the report on a visit to Milton Keynes, Miliband said sweeping reforms were needed to unlock house building across the country. “This is not only a fairer system, it is also one which will encourage local communities and local authorities to support the development that our country so desperately needs,” he said. 

“There has been a systematic failure to build the homes our country needs. Too much development land is held as a speculative investment when local people need homes.” 

But Brandon Lewis, the housing minister, said: “Labour is trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes. It says it they can meet its housing promises and not borrow a single penny extra to pay for it – but this just isn’t credible. 

“Despite the spin they put on it, Labour’s official policy is to borrow more money. Labour hasn’t learnt its lesson: it remains addicted to top-down planning which built nothing but resentment, and want more taxes and more regulation on the housing market, which would make it harder for people to move on and up the housing ladder.” 

In response to the proposals, Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the Home Builders Federation, said that the organisation welcomed the commitment to increase housing supply by Labour. 

“Whilst we have seen a big increase in house building activity in recent months, we are still not delivering enough homes to meet the country’s needs,” he added. “Policies that would result in more land coming forward for development more quickly and further assist first time buyers would clearly provide a boost to housing supply.”

The British Property Federation (BPF) has also billed the Lyons review as “sensible and comprehensive”, and has urged all political parties to undertake similar reviews.

 (Image: c. John Blower)

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