Labour’s housing and construction policy priorities
In and amongst the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, Keir Starmer was quietly elected leader of the Labour Party. His entrance into the leadership is largely reflective of his campaign in general, where his low-key approach saw him secure more than 56% of the vote.
Keir Starmer faces a steep challenge though: how to make himself and the Labour party relevant to the electorate in his first 100 days, while attention is intently focused on the Government’s and society’s response to Covid-19.
The ability to communicate constructively and collaboratively is essential here, with party politics needing to be set aside. But what can we expect from him and his new Shadow Housing Secretary, Thangam Debbonaire, and Shadow Secretary for Communities and Local Government, Steve Reed, once we step back out into the world?
Keir Starmer, Leader of the Labour Party
During the Labour leadership campaign, Starmer was criticised for not including a housing commitment among his top 10 pledges. However, he stressed that he would separately set out a housing vision which included a strong assurance to deliver new council homes and social housing in every community.
Starmer is an ally of the respected former Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey MP, who nominated Keir to be Leader. While housing policy appears a less enthusiastic personal priority to Starmer than it was to Corbyn, the policy direction will likely not differ radically from the approach Healey has been taking for the past five years.
Starmer’s pledges did include commitment to tackling the climate crisis and, to this end, he has indicated he will insist on upgrading the existing housing stock and making all new build housing zero carbon, despite developers previously expressing concerns about the cost and feasibility of doing this.
Starmer is committed to reversing the extension of permitted development rights, such as converting office blocks into residential. He will also extend rights to private renters including indefinite tenancies and rent controls.
Thangam Debbonaire, Shadow Housing Secretary
An MP since 2015, Debbonaire was previously a gender equality activist before entering Parliament and from 2006 to 2015 she worked for Respect, a national domestic violence intervention organisation.
The new Shadow Housing Secretary represents Bristol West, so will have extensive knowledge of the difficulties that young first-time buyers encounter when trying to get on the housing ladder. She has previously been vocal about the need for increased development within Bristol due to the demographic change taking place.
During her time in parliament she has frequently spoken out on housing issues, campaigning for increased security for tenants and fair access for tenants in receipt of housing benefit as well as supporting a ban on letting agency fees.
More recently she has written to Robert Jenrick on the impact of Covid-19 on the construction industry. She has said within this that getting building sites open again after social distancing rules have been relaxed will be a priority for Councils and the Government.
Steve Reed, Shadow Secretary for Communities and Local Government
Prior to entering Westminster, Steve Reed was leader of Lambeth Council for six years from 2006, working to create a co-operative council which essentially handed more control over services to its residents. During his tenure he supported tenant-managed estates, the creation of community led peer-mentoring groups and the provision of new community buildings.
He oversaw Lambeth Council during a time of intense regeneration for the borough and has publicly spoken about the need for developers to deliver attractive homes, public realms and cohesive communities.
Since becoming an MP, he has served as a shadow minister in several departments, including education; digital, culture, media and sport (twice); communities and local government; and home affairs.
He has also been at the forefront of the campaign to ban flammable cladding and has successfully led the charge for the removal of unsafe cladding from a residential block in his Croydon constituency.
The three politicians take up their new positions in interesting times – their views on tenant rights are extremely pertinent and we can expect them to pressure the government to ensure tenants are given continued protection during Covid-19. As we all spend a considerable amount of time at home, a light has been shone on the standard of housing for many in society. We can expect these Labour politicians to put pressure on the Government to deliver a new generation of social and council homes that are safe, secure and suitable for the 21st century.
At Instinctif Partners, we have a team of specialists who are tapped into both sides of the political spectrum. They can provide guidance on the new policy landscape and assist in navigating both corporate reputation and policy led communications. Our team instinctively knows and understands your sector and its challenges, so get in touch with us today: TellMeMore@instinctif.com