A lot of people in Leeds Central contact me about their housing problems. Young people and families starting out who feel that the dream of having a home of their own is disappearing into the distance. We require a lot of new homes in Leeds, and yet nationally we are building less than half the number of homes we need and young people are being priced out of the market with the average house price now eight times the average wage.
To make matters worse, we have the lowest level of home ownership since 1985, the lowest level of homes for social rent built in at least two decades, the lowest number of affordable homes built in five years - a fall of 32 per cent since 2009/10, and a record number of young people - one in four - living at home with their parents into their twenties and thirties. 11 million people are now renting, including over 1.5 million families with children, and rents are going up.
At the election Labour put forward a plan to build hundreds of thousands of new homes and give priority for those homes to young families just starting out. And we also had a plan for families who rent, with new long-term tenancies and a ceiling on rent increases during the tenancy. In light of the election result, we are obviously not in a position to implement our proposals but will continue to argue for a better and more fair deal for tenants.
Labour want to ensure fairer tenancies and rents by:
• Legislating for 3-year tenancies giving renters security and peace of mind.
• Ending excessive rent rises by putting a ceiling on rent increases during the new three-year tenancies.
• Banning unfair letting fees paid by tenants.
We want to see an increase in the number of new homes built every year to 200,000 a year by 2020 with priority for first-time buyers by:
• Giving local communities stronger powers to build the homes needed in the places people want.
• Getting the public sector back into building.
• Tackling land banking through new "use it or lose it" powers.
• Shaking up the housing market by backing SME builders through Help to Build.
• Building the next generation of Garden Cities.
• Granting first time buyers from the area priority access rights when new homes go on sale.
All councils are now required to identify sufficient sites to meet the need for housing. There is a great need in Leeds which we must meet or else our children and grandchildren will have nowhere to live. So, we all have to do our bit, and the sensible place to start is on brownfield - i.e. previously developed land. Labour believes therefore that we should strengthen the brownfield requirement.
We also published detailed devolution proposals which would give councils like Leeds much greater power over what type of development there should be, where it should go and who gets the homes when they are built.
Rt Hon Hilary Benn
MP for Leeds Central