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4 February 2016

Let’s make Labour the party of the property-owning democracy

Most people want a home of their own - Labour should be the party to give them one.

By John Healey

The most important event for Labour in 2015 wasn’t Jeremy Corbyn winning the leadership election. It was losing the general election.

Nothing must cloud our concentration on this hard truth, and its consequences.

By 2020 we have to win a hearing, the confidence and the support of millions of people in dozens of constituencies who turned elsewhere last year. Doing so demands we are capable of giving voice to both the aspiration and unfairness that so many feel over jobs, incomes and housing.

Most of us in Britain aspire to own our own home, yet there is an increasingly deep-seated inequality between the housing haves and housing have-nots. Those on the highest incomes, or with wealthy parents, get the security, asset and financial gains of home ownership, while those on middle and lower incomes are locked out.

This is why I’m launching today the independent ‘Redfern Review’ into the decline in home ownership, led by Pete Redfern the chief executive of Taylor Wimpey and backed by a world-class panel of expert advisors from business, housing and economics.

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It is first major review of home ownership in over a decade, and I hope it will help Labour open up and lead a much broader debate about how we get to grips with falling home ownership.

Under Labour in government, a million more households became home-owners. Since 2010 the number able to do so has been in freefall, with young people hit hardest of all.

New research I also release today shows that the number of home-owners under the age of 35 has fallen by more than a quarter of a million in the last five years. This hits all young people across all social classes but the biggest percentage fall has been in young working class households, down a fifth since 2010 so that now only one in five under 35s in manual jobs own their own home.

Housing has now become the biggest public policy failure in over half a century, and the clearest market failure. Opportunity and wealth aplenty for the few, but denied to the many.

Part of the problem is that the political cycle and short-term decision-making is at odds with the longer-term solutions our housing market needs. Current Conservative policy bears this out but Labour having nine housing ministers over 13 years didn’t help either.

In truth, for too long public policy has only scratched the surface and politicians have seemed incapable of making a difference. When asked early in 2015, 72 per cent of people said they thought it would make ‘little’ or ‘no difference’ which Party won the General Election to the housing problems in their local area. 

The base of analysis and terms of debate on housing have been far too limited for far too long. The Redfern Review aims to break out of the cycle of short-term thinking that dogs housing policy. It will analyse the causes of the decline in home ownership and possible future trends, as well as pointing to areas where action is most needed.

Just as home ownership is the first preference for most of the country, so I want home ownership to be the first housing priority for Labour.