One of my chief frustrations with both New Labour and the current Tory government is the failure of both when it comes to housing supply – particularly at the social and affordable end of the spectrum.
Private developers typically ask for a 20% profit forecast before they plan new builds, so it is quite clear to me that building Council houses is very important. This is however very difficult to finance because the Thatcher government cynically banned Councils from boring against rent because they feared that tenants would vote Labour. This is a ban which is ludicrously still in force, stopping us from building housing which can fund itself from rent income if this is properly ringfenced. No Council can build and manage properties in large amounts for this reason. In Brent we share additional problems with developers and Housing Associations: the low availability of local land.
But I am proud of Brent Council today. My Labour colleagues Cllr McLellan and Cllr Farah have seen the council start to directly build new housing on former garage sites. Only seven units have been completed so far, but it is a very good start and movement in the right direction.