Housing and the Labour leadership race

Andy BurnhamEchoing a theme of the recent election campaign, Andy Burnham this week attempted to seize housing as a key issue for his Labour leadership campaign. We highlighted during the election the measures that each party was proposing, and Mr Burnham has co-opted what was a Lib Dem policy, the idea of ‘Rent to Own’ homes that removes the burden of saving for sizeable deposits.

As we noted, though, the problem was with supply as well as demand. Mr Burnham’s prescription for addressing that is a Cabinet-level Minister for Housing, to ensure that they have the profile to drive new house-building, and perhaps that they cannot hide if they fail to deliver. Building 250,000 homes a year, as Mr Burnham professes to prefer, will require new houses to be built on greenfield sites around the country – something he has opposed with a development of only 100 houses in his own constituency.

Jeremy Corbyn


Jeremy Corbyn, the outsider who is certainly attracting attention, has countered with the more radical idea of a Right to Buy – long a bête noire for the political Left for depleting council housing stock – to private renters. This would be achieved in practice by subsidising mortgage rates after withdrawing subsidies for buy-to-let landlords, allow renters to become homeowners.

Bold moves like Mr Corbyn’s would change the market for renters and prospective buyers, but we are still to see radical ideas for getting houses built. Developers would no doubt welcome some more support locally from politicians who are happy to preach the virtues of housebuilding as a matter of national policy.

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