4:40pm Tuesday 29th October 2013
By Gema Bate
THE shadow housing minister admitted the Labour party did not build enough affordable homes when it was in power during a debate on the issue in Worcester.
Wolverhampton MP Emma Reynolds made the admission at a discussion about affordable housing at Sixways on Thursday .
But, Ms Reynolds said Labour hopes to meet demand by building 200,000 affordable homes every year, if it wins the next general election.
Worcester currently has about 3,000 people waiting for a home, and Ms Reynolds said a range of measures could help bring the numbers down.
“I don’t think we managed to get enough homes built and we did not build enough housing to replace those lost by the Right to Buy initiative,” she said.
“We did build quite a lot of affordable housing, with our best year being 2007 when we built 207,000 homes, but we were better in the last five years of our 13 years in government than we were at the front end of that, so I would have liked to have seen the last Labour Government build even more.
“Some of the affordable housing build that took place in 2011 and 2012 was because of our investment. “The Government will say they have built ‘x’ number of homes, but some of that is our legacy.
“Demand is outstripping supply and there is less than half the number of houses being built than we need. The Government is not doing a good job on the issue.”
If Labour come into power in 2015, Ms Reynolds said reforming the land market, including giving more power to local authorities to stop developers who sit on land instead of building, would help, as well as building new towns and giving the correct areas the right to grow.
She also said housing was a factor across all aspects of government responsibility, including education, families, finance and benefits.
“We think the bedroom tax is an iniquitous tax and we want to get rid of it,” she added.
“We think it is one of the worst policies the Government has brought forward and we don’t think it is going to save money, as families are having to move out into the private sector, which is more expensive, so essentially they’re having to have more housing benefit, or they are falling into arrears and might end up being evicted, in which case if they’re homeless, local authorities are having to put them in expensive and sometimes squalid accommodation.”
She also said 95 per cent of the housing budget, currently controlled by the Conservative secretary of state for communities and local government, Eric Pickles, was being used on benefits and only five per cent on things like grants to build more homes.
Worcester city councillor Joy Squires, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Worcester and board member for WM housing, said securing affordable housing was one of her top priorities.
“We need to get the housing right and it hasn’t been right for many years. But once housing is right, then education, social enterprise, finance, and everything else comes with it,” she said.
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