Blog Post

Council housing is the missing solution to the housing crisis

LHG’s new report on council homebuilding – called ‘The Missing Solution’ – is launched at Labour Party Conference today.

As a country we have not built anything like enough new homes since Thatcher virtually ended council housebuilding in the early 1980s. The other sectors – private sector and housing associations – have been left to shoulder the burden but have never got close to bridging the gap.

Despite its faults, council homebuilding is a proven model, it is tried and tested, and it works. Grant is put in at the start to make it viable to build and to meet infrastructure costs, but no subsidy is needed thereafter – subsidising investment rather than consumption is the best use of resources. Because rents are much lower than market-related homes, large savings in housing benefit are made over the lifetime of the homes. And huge savings will be made in other services like health and education because so many more people will live in high quality, affordable and suitable homes. It’s a great investment in bricks and mortar that will eventually pay for itself – and contribute hugely to mitigating climate change.  

After a decade in which the government virtually ended support for new homes at council rents, there has been a spirited fight back in defence of council homebuilding. Councils are doing as much as they can to get building again, but they need a better partner in government. Councils must have the confidence to plan, better powers and resources to buy land and regenerate sites, more support from government to manage the risks inherent in a growing programme, and support generally to build the capacity needed to run a large programme. The responsibility is on government to provide sufficient grant and to reform land and planning to make the job doable.

If this government doesn’t act, Labour needs to think through now what is needed to hit the ground running when re-elected into government. There will be no time to lose.

The report makes a big start on this task. Written by a range of political figures who have recent experience of building council homes around the country and a range of experts who have worked in the field for many years, it considers the gamut of financial, governance and organisational issues that have to be tackled, with lots of local examples of successes and challenges.

Lucy Powell’s speech to Conference this afternoon and the excellent composite resolution moved by Labour Housing Group Chair John Cotton, followed by the launch of the report, are a good start. As John said, the aim of all this work is to make a reality of Labour’s commitment to build 150,000 social rent homes a year including 100,000 council homes by the end of a Parliament. Detailed work and a comprehensive plan are needed to make this ambition a reality. We hope the report will help us in these tasks. 

The report is available here:

And the Executive Summary is available here


Is edited by Rachel Blake, Nick Bragger, Steve Hilditch and Sheila Spencer, with additional editing and design by Simon Hilditch, and contributions from Rachel Blake, Steve Cox, Aileen Evans, Paul Hackett, Steve Hilditch, Jenny Hill, Alison Inman, Satvir Kaur, Janice Morphet, James Murray, Julia Park, Steve Partridge, Jerry Swain, Sharon Thompson, Mike Todd-Jones, Ed Turner and Martin Wheatley.

<strong>Steve Hilditch</strong>
Steve Hilditch

Editor and Founder of Red Brick blog.
Former Head of Policy for Shelter. Select Committee Advisor for Housing and Homelessness. Drafted the first London Mayor’s Housing Strategy under Ken Livingstone.

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LONDON ELECTION NEWS ‘Fair Deal for London Housing’ campaign now on FB and Twitter!

London Labour Housing Group’s ‘Fair Deal for London Housing’ campaign is getting under way with the launch of a new Facebook Group and a new Twitter feed.
The Fair Deal for London Housing Facebook Group aims to connect people with an interest in progressive housing policies for London who are also interested in campaigning for change.
The Twitter feed @FairDealLdnHsg aims to provide a flow of information and ideas to support housing campaigns in London.
London Labour Housing Group strongly supports Ken Livingstone’s campaign to become Mayor and Labour’s candidates for the London Assembly.   LLHG has helped develop houisng policies for the campaign and welcomes Ken’s early announcements on planning for London housing, the campaign for a London Living Rent, and plans for a London-wide not-for-profit lettings agency.
More information on Ken’s policies and housing campaigning in London can be found as follows:
On the web:
Ken Livingstone’s website:
Labour Housing Group webpage:
Labour London spokesperson on housing Nicky Gavron:
Red Brick blog:
On Facebook
Ken Livingstone
Labour Housing Group!/pages/Labour-Housing-Group/247469867388
London LHG Fair Deal for London Housing!/groups/FairDealforLondonHousing/
On Twitter:
Ken Livingstone @ken4london
Labour Housing Group @LabourHousing
London Labour Housing Group @FairDealLdnHsg
Red Brick Twitterers: @SteveHilditch  @tonyclements1
Other Labour Housing Group Twitterers @RossSHouston @Scarletstand @JackDromeyMP

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Musical tenancies

Labour Housing Group Executive member Graham Martin moved the housing resolution passed unanimously yesterday at Labour Conference in Liverpool.
The resolution notes the growing housing crisis that will be created by the Government’s policies, falling housing starts, huge cuts to the social housebuilding programme, a jump in homelessness, and the rising costs of housing benefit caused by increased dependence on the private rented sector and escalating rents.
Specifically it calls for a shift in financing of private landlords away from buying existing homes, causing unfair competition with first time buyers, towards investment in new properties which would add to the stock and boost growth.
It welcomes the initiative by Ed Miliband and Ed Balls to extend the tax on bankers’ bonuses to invest in new affordable homes. It calls for the defence of the rights of social tenants and the delivery of more social housing to be campaigning priorities for Labour in opposition.
In his speech, Graham warned that the Government’s policies run the risk of triggering ‘an
avalanche of mortgage repossessions
’.  In reference to private renting, he said ‘It is like the game musical chairs but now it is musical tenancies and as your private sector tenancy comes to an end you have to go and move. And as you play musical tenancies, your child has to play musical schools and musical doctors…. And if you are unlucky enough to need housing benefit to help pay the rent, hey presto this government has taken half the empty homes away. And now this government thinks it is such a good idea they are trying to bring in musical tenancies for council and housing association tenants.’
‘Our children need stable homes, strong communities need stable homes, and what is going on is a way to break communities.’

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LP Conference: housing policy comes centre stage on Thursday

As we have reported on Red Brick already, housing has been a big theme at this year’s Labour Party Conference.  Much of the discussion has been good and positive – although unfortunately not all.  The housing debate will come to the main Conference on Thursday morning.  There will be a debate around a ‘composite’ housing motion (ie assembled into one from a number of motions submitted by Labour Party organisations) and it is likely to be moved by Graham Martin from the Labour Housing Group Executive.  There will also be a speech from Caroline Flint.
The debate should be carried live on the BBC Parliamentary Channel (which I much prefer to the BBC2 coverage, where speakers are constantly interrupted by presenters and
commentators who seem to think they are the attraction).
Anyway, to help Red Brick readers follow the debate, below is the composite motion that
will be debated (NB it may be subject to a little grammatical tidying up before Thursday).
I think it is a motion we can all support.
Composite 4 – Housing
Conference notes with alarm the independently-commissioned forecast of the National  Housing Federation (30th August 2011) that the housing market will be plunged into a unprecedented crisis as steep rises in the private rental sector, huge social housing waiting lists, and a house price boom are fuelled by a chronic under-supply of homes.
Conference notes the publication of national house building statistics on 18 August,
showing falling housing starts and completions, and the Home Builders Federation’s ‘Housing Pipeline’ report on 26 August showing that planning permissions for new housing are also falling, the sharp fall in house building to just 23,400 homes last quarter, the 18% jump in homelessness over 12 months and the £1.3 billion pa rise in Housing Benefit payments. In the last five years of Labour Government over 250,000 new affordable homes were delivered in England, while the Tory-led government is aiming to deliver just 150,000 by 2015.
In 2010/11 just 105,000 homes were built in England – the lowest level since the 1920s. These figures are an indictment of the Government which is blind to its inevitable
consequences – increased homelessness and joblessness, rising market rents, and the inability of young and middle aged households the opportunity to either buy or rent a decent home.
Conference believes that by failing to deliver the new affordable housing to buy and to
rent that young people and families need, the Tory-led Government is holding back the aspirations of people up and down the country and failing those in need of social housing.
Conference believes the Government’s plans to abolish secure tenancies, and put social tenants at risk of eviction should they get a promotion or a pay rise will create fear and uncertainty and will create a disincentive to work.
Conference believes that with nearly 2 million households (around 4.5 million people)
nationally on council housing waiting lists and the Tory/Lib Dem government threatening security of tenure, the Government is letting down young people and families who need new affordable homes in the rented sector and in the sales market urgently.
Given the huge increase in housing benefit going to fund private landlords, we also call for a shift of financing of private sector landlord investment away from purchasing existing second hand homes (in competition with first time buyers), and towards investment in New Properties. This will result in an increase in quality supply, and better opportunities for younger and middle aged families to purchase a home.
Conference strongly believes that Labour should be on the side of all those in need of decent affordable housing, whatever their circumstances.  Conference firmly believes that the development of new housing not only meets the needs of our community but is crucial if we are to see the construction sector as a leading player in bringing strong growth back to our economy.
Conference supports measures to tackle the fraudulent sub-letting of social housing, which
deprives many in genuine need of affordable housing, and notes that in Government Labour launched a national crack down on this type of fraud.
Conference welcomes Labour’s initiative to introduce a new tax on bankers’ bonuses to
raise enough money to boost affordable housing supply.
Conference urges the Labour Party to call for a programme of investment in quality new
homes, which will provide employment, generate tax income, reduce homelessness and the cost of emergency accommodation, and reduce expenditure on unemployment and housing benefits.
Conference calls upon Labour’s Shadow Cabinet and the wider Party to make an increase in quality, sustainable, affordable housing supply including social housing and housing for first time buyers, and better opportunities for younger and middle aged families to purchase a home, key themes in policy development, and to prioritise in its housing policy review an allocations policy that is fair to everyone.
Conference resolves that defending the rights of social tenants and the delivery of more
social housing must be campaigning priorities for Labour in opposition.

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Labour Housing Group events in September

There are 2 big events for LHG in September.
London Labour Housing Group
LLHG will hold its first AGM on Monday 12 September at the House of Commons.  The guest speaker will be Jon Cruddas MP who will lead a discussion on London housing policy for the mayoral election and the Labour Party’s national housing policy review.
The meeting is open to members of LHG living in London.  Labour Party members can sign up to join LHG at any time, including on the night.  For membership information, go to:
We need to know numbers in advance so if you are interested in coming, please email Steve Hilditch at
LHG at Labour Party Conference.
For those attending Labour Conference in Liverpool, below is the information for LHG’s fringe meeting.

Labour Party Conference 2011 Fringe Meeting

Labour Housing Group with SERA and the Co-op Party

Homes  For The Future – reviewing possibilities
for Labour’s housing policy

Sunday 25th September 2011 –– 6.00pm – 8.00pm

Riverside Balcony, ACC BT Convention Centre

Chair Jacky Peacock OBE, Vice Chair LHG

Alison Seabeck MP, Shadow Housing Minister

Leonie Cooper, SERA

Huw Lewis, Welsh
Labour Minister for Housing

Admission is FREE and REFRESHMENTS are provided