Labour, who during the general election pledged to build 1million new houses, have been shown by the House of Commons Library to perform significantly less well at the local level by figures released by the Department for Local Government and Communities, in what has been branded a “serious failure” by critics.
Between 2010 and 2016, council house stocks in Labour-led local authorities fell on average by a whopping 9%, far outstripping the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. In terms of house building full stop, housing stock in Labour areas grew proportionally by less even than the Conservatives, growing by a mere 3.5% to the Tories’ 4%.
The news provides stark context to the pledge of the Labour Party, who appear to talk a big game on housing, but in fact underperform when it comes to the real statistics. Indeed, the numbers belie internal tensions within the party – while Jeremy Corbyn pledged 1m new homes, his housing spokesperson was hesitant to say that they’d reach the target of 300,000 a year set out by the House of Lords.
Housing has become a major political issue, with it being seen by some as the epitome of the generation gap. With house prices in the South East and London in particular now totalling as much as 13 times the size of average wages, many commentators and politicians have said that Britain is in the grip of a “housing crisis”.
Labour, however, who professed to have all the answers, appear to be struggling to perform when actually elected. In Oxford, for example, a place with one of the worst housing crises and statistically the most unaffordable house prices in the country, only 164 affordable houses were built, as part of 383 houses in total, shy for yet another year running of the target of 400. Oxford is administered by a Labour council.
With housing set to continue to be a major issue, particularly for young people, all eyes will be on Labour. After notable u-turns on higher education funding, there are alarm bells ringing that this could be the next one.