The new political landscape of 2024

Housing 2024 had a slightly strange ambience this year, being the last major housing event before the 2024 General Election.

All of the talks, all of the presentations and panels, came against the poll-informed certainty that there will be a new government by the time you’re reading this write-up and great uncertainty about what that means for the housing sector.

To talk about the social and political situation that Labour will inherit, and what they can plausibly do about it, Housing 2024 gathered three national journalists to discuss the land as it lies:

  • Rachel Cunliffe, associate political editor of the New Statesman
  • Vicky Spratt, journalist and author of Tenants: The People on the Frontline of Britain's Housing Emergency
  • Ranvir Singh, newsreader and presenter for Good Morning Britain and LBC.

Housing 2024: The new political landscape

nRachel Cunliffe

Rachel spoke about the ‘housing theory of everything,’ an idea that everything is about housing, and every policy challenge that a government faces is directly linked to housing.

“A business can’t recruit people to work if they don’t live nearby, we can’t have doctors or nurses in an area if they can’t afford a flat,” Rachel said. “Having a safe, secure place to live is vital social mobility, education, and life chances.”

Going further, Rachel linked the housing crisis directly to other social and health issues, including the UK’s declining fertility, saying, “In January 2022, half the women in the UK have no child, the average age of women having children is over 30, and the average age of home ownership is over 30.”

Moving on to what Rachel believes Labour can actually do, she focused on the idea of planning reform.

“New towns are the most interesting part [of the manifesto] and it hasn’t been talked about,” Rachel said. “We’re tired of hearing about how everything is broken and there’s no money to fix it.”

“Labour won’t promise tax raises, won’t break their borrowing rules, which leaves weapons in the arsenal. Planning reform is a valuable tool to unlock growth and opportunity.”

“It's so valuable because doesn’t cost that much up front, it will get houses built now quickly, and the rewards of the choice can be reaped quickly.”

Of course, planning reform would come at a cost. As we discussed with John Anderson of Allison Homes, weaning local authorities off the expectation that they can control what is built in their domain is a challenge.

“Keir Starmer told the BBC he’s ready to make enemies to secure economic growth,” Rachel said. “A small group of people will be angry, immediately and personally, at [Labour]. The benefits of the people in the new homes come later – you have to trust those benefits will arrive, and not get caught in the criticism of MPs saying they want housebuilding, but not here [in their constituency].”

Driving home why it’s a good idea to make unpopular decisions, Rachel said, “Labour is going to win MPs in seats they weren’t going to target, and not in seats they’ll own.

“Those seats are borrowed - they’ll have to aim for a more realistic target in 2030, agree they’ll lose those seats, and set out to build there anyway.”

Moving on to the future, Rachel indicated a more seismic shift in the political landscape, saying, “Housing, and having a home, feeling secure in your home, has been a ‘conservative-coded’ idea.

“[The home] is the emblem of conservatism, and we haven’t built any. For Labour to move their tanks onto the conservative lawn is quite a seismic shift, and will go well beyond this election to fix.”


Vicky Spratt

Speaking about the election, Vicky said she was struck by the cross-party consensus among the biggest parties on the need to build homes.

“Increasingly, it feels like there’s nothing you can do to fix the crises in this country that doesn’t involve housing,” Vicky said. “[Poor housing] is making people depressed, it’s hurting life chances, and draining the rest of the economy.”

On how the housing crisis can be addressed, Vicky also stressed the need to make unpopular choices, saying, “There’s no way out that doesn’t mean doing at least one thing that someone is unhappy with. We’re in a crisis so severe it’s impacting lives and the economy, but you have to unpopular to fix that.”

Moving on, Vicky mentioned house prices, saying, “We’re not alone, but have it worse than most of Western Europe, and house prices have soared above earnings to a point where it’s like homeostasis, it can’t do anything.

“Either there’s a 2008-style crash or, more likely, we stay in stagnation with minor rises across parts of the country.”

Stressing the need for unpopularity, Vicky relayed the story of an anonymous Conservative council leader knowingly destroying their chances of re-election to deliver a local housing project, saying, “I’m never going to be re-elected after doing this, and I don’t care.”


Ranvir Singh

Ravir is a journalist and radio presenter with LBC.

Ranvir took aim at a few issues that will dictate the next five years for Labour, starting with right-to-buy.

“Right-to-buy is one of the main reasons social housing stock has gone,” Ranvir said. “Labour will look at discounts on right-to-buy, where the Greens and Lib Dems are saying will ban it.

“While Labour insists that buying is best, beneath the surface right-to-buy has to stop because it eats up social housing – they just can’t say that yet because it looks anti-home buying, even anti-British. That could be a flexible area after the election.”

Ranvir also pointed out a difficult reality – the ongoing crisis of council funding. “One fifth of council leaders expected their councils to go into special measures in the next few years, and none of the main parties really want to touch it,” Ranvir said.

“Austerity and the cost-of-living crisis are now visible even in ‘wealthy’ areas – it was hidden ten years ago, there but not here, but now there’s litter, visible homelessness, and food banks where they can see it.

“It’s not just that Labour needs to tackle it, the public consensus has changed and thrown the issue up.”

On what Labour actually need to do, Ranvir also drives home the consensus that Labour needs to be bold and brave with facing unpopularity.

“[Keir] will have to develop a thick skin and make decisions that won’t please everyone,” Ranvir said. “He’s going to have to prove to that he can hold the centre ground, and forge a balance between the treasury, the City, the capital and improving living standards.”

Ranvir also stresses Labour should “end right-to-but until social housing is back to the level where we need it, it’s a major problem.”

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Please Note: Every care was taken to ensure the information in this article was correct at the time of publication. Any written guidance provided does not replace the reader’s professional judgement and any construction project should comply with the relevant Building Regulations or applicable technical standards. However, for the most up to date LABC Warranty technical guidance please refer to your Risk Management Surveyor and the latest version of the LABC Warranty Technical Manual.

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