Jeremy Corbyn pitched a regeneration revolution to the Labour party conference, promising tenants a return ‘home’ to the same site on the same terms.
“Regeneration will be for the benefit of local people, not property developers and speculators.
“Everyone moved will have a home at the same site on the same terms as before,” he said.
Corbyn pledged Labour to a review of social housing policy, promising a ‘radical programme of action’ to bring to next year’s conference and vowed to ensure every home was fit for human habitation if his party came to power.
Corbyn told conference of plans for rent control where the present generation of renters was now paying three times more than its grandparents.
Other pledges as part of a ‘national programme of action’ included:
- A “use it or lose it” tax on undeveloped land held by developers
- Strengthened compulsory purchase powers.“
A decent home is a right for everyone – houses should be homes for the many, not speculative investments for the few,” Corbyn said.
Conference heard burnt-out Grenfell Tower described by Corbyn as a monument to social policies that practiced “disdain for the powerless and the poor” and had failed housing.
Grenfell was, he said, a “damning indictment” of an outlook that valued council tax rebates for the wealthy over the lives of residents.
Corbyn cited the unheeded warning of Grenfell tenants group that claimed only a “catastrophic event” would expose the “incompetence and ineptitude” of its ALMO landlord.
He quoted the poet Ben Okri on Grenfell: “If you want to see how the poor die, come see Grenfell Tower
See the tower, and let a world-changing deed flower.”
The RLA was quick to react to rent control, calling Corbyn out for an “attack” on landlords.
RLA policy director David Smith said the proposals will concern private landlords.
“Contrary to suggestions, most landlords have one or two properties, which are an investment in their pension and, rather than being wealthy landowners, they are mainly basic rate taxpayers.
“The private rented sector is a key part of providing more housing and has invested in providing homes for the population, putting more homes into use than other landlord types.
“Rents are high due to the continued failures by successive governments of all stripes to build enough new homes in the right places.
“Instead of attacking landlords who are helping to provide homes, it would be better to treat them as part of the solution and to supplement their efforts with a sustained and well thought out building programme overseen by government. ”
The RLA believes rent controls do not work and only serve to reduce the supply and quality of homes to let as landlords are forced out of the market and have less capital to reinvest in improving homes.
David Cox, Chief Executive, ARLA Propertymark said the rent control pledge proved Labour “clearly hasn’t learnt the lessons of history” when the last time rent controls existed the private rented sector went from housing 90% of the population to just 7%.
“Whenever and wherever rent controls are introduced, the quantity of available housing reduces significantly, and the conditions in privately rented properties deteriorate dramatically.
“Landlords, agents, and successive Governments over the last 30 years have worked hard to improve the conditions of rented properties and this is like taking two steps backwards.
“Rent control is not the answer – to bring rent costs down we need a concerted house building effort to increase stock in line with ever-growing demand.”
However, some backed what the Labour leader said in his speech.
David Orr, Chief Executive at the National Housing Federation, said: “We welcome Labour’s announcement of a comprehensive review into social housing policy and share the ambition to ensure everyone has a great quality home that they can afford.
“It is important that politicians from across the spectrum are committed to reconnecting with the purpose of social housing and with those who need genuinely affordable housing.
“Tenants are at the heart of social housing and the communities that housing associations invest in. It is absolutely right that their voices are heard.
“But while work on this review is underway, there are things we can and must do right now – like reallocating the unspent £1.1bn of Starter Homes investment in a new generation of high quality homes for social rent.”
Tom King, a spokesperson for the London Housing Campaign, said: “Jeremy Corbyn’s backing for rent controls is a welcome step, but Londoners can’t wait for a Labour Government.
“We need the Labour Mayor of London to have powers to control rent rises now.
“Sadiq Khan is currently consulting on a new housing strategy and this presents an excellent opportunity for him to set out the case to the Government for new rent control powers that will allow him to take control of London’s housing market and tackle the capital’s housing crisis.”