Ed Miliband: Labour’s Plans For ‘Next New Towns’ To Solve London Housing Crisis


Ed Miliband today warns that London’s position as a global business capital is in danger unless hundreds of thousands of new homes are built.

Writing in the Standard, the Labour leader says affordable flats and houses are vital to ensure firms have the young professionals and skilled workers they need to expand.

He commits Labour to develop a “next generation of new towns” similar to Milton Keynes where aspirational Britons can raise families while working in the booming South-East. He also sets out plans to speed up housebuilding in London’s 32 boroughs, including action against property firms sitting on prime land and moves to reduce the number of empty flats owned by absentee foreign investors.

“There is a chronic shortage of affordable homes in Britain, and nowhere is this clearer than in London,” writes Mr Miliband. He highlights the ballooning cost of living for dashing the dream of home ownership for many young Londoners. “Their hopes are fading as fast as the prices rise beyond their reach.”

He says: “And it is also causing deep difficulty for employers, both in the public and private sector. Indeed, the CBI recently highlighted the cost and lack of suitable housing for skilled employees as the biggest threat to London’s position as one of the world’s greatest cities for business.”

Among Mr Miliband’s plans, set out in his article, are:

Creating new towns in “sustainable locations” resilient to flooding and the impact of climate change, similar to the Fifties and Sixties development of Stevenage and Milton Keynes. Party sources suggest up to four would be developed, including at least two to take the heat off London.

Councils could be barred from blocking housing developments pushed by neighbouring local authorities — a highly controversial move where interests conflict over issues such as traffic problems. Mr Miliband said “home-blocking local authorities” had caused years of frustration.

Developers will be stopped from advertising new flats overseas before Londoners are given a chance to buy or rent the new homes.

Councils could be allowed to double the amount of extra council tax on empty properties, to punish “buy to leave” investors. “We will address the scandals in the private rented sector and close the loopholes which allow desperately needed housing to stand empty for years,” writes Mr Miliband.

It comes after an Evening Standard investigation revealed the full extent of London’s luxury “ghost homes” where wealthy owners, including foreign investors, leave multi-million pound properties empty for years. The “Canaletto” building being built in Islington has been advertised abroad as an investment for the super-rich.

The CBI ranked housing as the second most important weakness to doing business in the capital, below “overall operating costs”, in a survey of London businesses last July. A CBI spokesman said: “The cost and availability of housing is identified by our London members as a significant weakness to doing business.

“The CBI wants to see the Government boosting the supply of housing by speeding up the release of public sector land, especially local authority land, for building.”

Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps said the Conservatives were speeding up housing compared with when Labour was in office. “We’re taking the difficult decisions to deal with Labour’s mess — delivering hundreds of thousands of new affordable homes through proper investment and fixing the planning system.”



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