A decent home at a price people can afford is essential for a healthy, happy family life. Yet too many people in Bedford and Kempston have to struggle too hard and too long to achieve that basic goal, whilst for many others it is simply out of reach.
New figures published by Shelter show that young people are locked out of buying new homes for up to 30 years because of sky-high property prices.
This has led to the biggest housing crisis in a generation with some development land being hoarded unnecessarily instead of being built on. I understand that developers need to maintain a certain amount of land for the future but there are firms sitting on land with planning permission, waiting for it to accumulate in value and not building homes on it.
Planning permission has been granted for 400,000 homes in England and Wales – equivalent to a city the size of Birmingham – which have not yet been built. And yet in the first quarter of 2013, only 18,380 homes were completed by the private sector – the lowest quarter in 23 years.
We desperately need more homes in Bedford and Kempston but the Tory Government refuse to do anything about it which is why Labour is looking at a range of measures to encourage land-owners to start building, get construction workers back into jobs and provide decent homes for local families.
We are looking at giving local authorities real powers to charge developers fees for unnecessarily sitting on land with planning permission and to say to the worst offenders that they should either use the land, or lose the land. Permission to build homes should mean land-owners build homes.
But these options are just a starting point. Nobody should be in any doubt about Labour’s determination to rebuild our country, get our construction industry working again and give families in Bedford and Kempston a chance of owning a decent home just like their parents did before them.
By failing to resolve the core of the problem — an inadequate housing stock — measures like the government’s unfair, cruel bedroom tax have only made matters worse.