Miliband could savage our cities faster than any bomb

Everyone is familiar with the struggle of Generation Rent. Even readers who are owner-occupiers will have friends or relatives who have seen their rents rise to eye-watering levels. No one could fail to have sympathy with their plight. But if we are to have any chance of solving the problem, we must understand what has really caused it.

In London – where more and more people are being driven to rent at ever higher prices – two factors have come together to produce a crisis. The first is the sheer popularity and success of the city. London is the most dynamic urban economy in Europe, with a growing population and an enormous demand for housing. And that demand has been exacerbated, secondly, by the total failure of the previous Labour government – in which Ed Miliband served – to build enough homes. Don’t just take it from me. As Miliband admitted himself in 2010, after he had been (rightly) kicked out of office: “We refused to prioritise the building of new social housing”. Or as Ed Balls put it: “Labour was wrong…We were late in recognising the importance of building more homes, and more affordable homes.”

How many houses are we building?
Date Private companies Housing associations Councils All sources
1969-70 185,920 7,410 185,000 378,320
1970-71 174,340 8,510 179,370 362,230
1971-72 196,310 10,700 157,460 364,480
1972-73 200,760 7,780 122,400 330,940
1973-74 191,080 8,980 104,580 304,640
1974-75 145,180 9,970 124,440 279,580
1975-76 154,530 14,750 152,660 321,940
1976-77 155,230 153,770 324,770
1977-78 143,910 145,060 314,090
1978-79 152,170 22,780 113,660 288,600
1979-80 144,060 18,070 89,700 251,820
1980-81 131,970 21,420 88,590 241,990
1981-82 118,580 19,420 68,570 206,570
1982-83 129,000 13,510 40,310 182,820
1983-84 153,020 16,660 39,220 208,900
1984-85 165,420 17,260 37,590 220,270
1985-86 163,360 13,750 30,450 207,570
1986-87 177,160 12,940 25,420 215,510
1987-88 191,250 13,150 21,830 226,230
1988-89 207,420 13,490 21,450 242,360
1989-90 187,540 14,600 19,380 221,520
1990-91 161,630 19,190 16,380 197,210
1991-92 160,250 21,090 9,900 191,250
1992-93 143,980 30,010 4,420 178,420
1993-94 146,750 36,580 3,530 186,850
1994-95 155,290 37,240 3,060 195,580
1995-96 156,540 38,170 3,010 197,710
1996-97 153,450 30,950 1,540 185,940
1997-98 160,680 28,550 1,520 190,760
1998-99 154,560 22,870 870 178,290
1999-00 160,520 23,170 320 184,010
2000-01 152,740 22,250 380 175,370
2001-02 153,580 20,400 230 174,200
2002-03 164,300 18,610 300 183,210
2003-04 172,360 18,020 210 190,590
2004-05 184,500 21,990 130 206,620
2005-06 189,700 23,990 320 214,000
2006-07 192,170 26,650 260 219,070
2007-08 189,660 28,630 250 218,530
2008-09 144,920 33,040 830 178,790
2009-10 117,980 34,190 780 152,940
2010-11 104,770 30,920 1,760 137,450
2011-12 109,620 34,190 3,080 146,850
2012-13 106,030 27,160 2,330 135,510
2013-14 111,750 27,120 2,060 140,930
ONS

One of the Labour members of the London Assembly, Tom Copley, has even called for the party to apologise for its failure to build more homes. As you might expect from Labour politicians, they are in fact understating the scale of the disaster, or their role in it. In the 13 years of the Labour government, housebuilding plunged to its lowest level since the Twenties. They saw the number of available affordable homes fall by 200,000; and indeed – this is the statistic that should really make them hang their heads with shame – they built fewer council homes in 13 years than Mrs Thatcher did in one year of her premiership.

Nor were things any better for those looking to buy on the open market: under Labour, the number of first-time buyers collapsed to the lowest levels since the Seventies; and perhaps no wonder, when you consider that Labour has always been suspicious of home-ownership – and the feelings of pride, autonomy and independence that go with it. In short: Labour failed dismally to build enough homes during the long years of the boom – and it is that failure we Tories have been trying our utmost, and with increasing success, to rectify.

In London, we are well on target now to deliver a record 100,000 new affordable homes over the life of this mayoralty; and there are more homes being built – just look at the cranes – than at any time since the early Eighties. These homes are for social rent, for part-buy-part-rent, for market sale and for market rent. For years now, we have been working to get the big pension funds and insurers to use their billions for the good of this country – by funding the building of tens of thousands of good new homes, for private rent, on brownfield sites. We are finally getting there. We have about 13,000 new rental homes in the pipeline – and the fear is that if their rents are unfairly controlled, these investors will just walk away; construction will halt; and we will be back to the inertia of the Labour years.

Now I suppose you might not care much about killing off new supply; you might think it would be a fine thing just to clobber existing landlords, force them to hold down rents. The result, alas, would be the exact opposite. All experience, in Britain and around the world, has shown that rent-controlled landlords let their buildings decay; and far from holding down rents, the three-year freeze would simply encourage landlords to whack them up sharply at the beginning and the end of the tenancy. This policy means higher rents, fewer homes, and general dilapidation. Like so much of Miliband’s agenda, it means going back to the Seventies.

It is not the way forward for Britain. The way forward is to build hundreds of thousands of higher-quality homes, including for market rent; to insist that landlords conform to the London Rental Standard in maintaining their properties; and to help people – as we are – with their rental deposit, interest-free. With the pressures now on the housing market, it is mad to pursue policies that would actively throttle new building and throttle the rental market, and if Miliband won’t listen to me, he should pay attention to his ideological kinsmen in formerly commie Vietnam. This isn’t a new policy. Lefties have been there, done it, and they know it is a disaster.

One thought on “Miliband could savage our cities faster than any bomb”

  1. Odd as Socialism needs “seething masses” you dont get a lumpen proletariat in Hertfordshire, No car factories in Harpenden

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