Jeremy Corbyn has said his top priority is to build more council houses and introduce tougher regulation of the private rental sector – and insisted he was not downhearted after difficult local election results for his party last week.
Speaking to the Guardian as he was campaigning in the West Midlands, the Labour leader said the UK needed a serious national initiative to tackle the housing crisis, aimed in particular at helping younger and less well-off voters.
The party wants at least a million new homes built over the next five years, with half of them council houses, as part of a programme of borrowing for public investment. It has also committed to secure tenancies, stopping rip-off fees and unreasonable rent increases, and a charter of private tenants’ rights.
Asked for his number one priority, Corbyn said: “There are obviously many priorities but the crisis of housing and setting in train a housing programme that would build more council housing at socially affordable rents and ensuring there is proper regulation of the private rental sector is a very high priority for me.”He said sorting out the crisis in the NHS, a new economic strategy focused on investment and getting a Brexit trade deal were other key issues. Corbyn also said that whatever happened in the 8 June vote he would be “carrying on” as Labour leader.
Corbyn’s remarks come as the main parties gear up their election campaigns to focus on consumer issues. Labour strategists believe housing is a core issue for “generation rent” who cannot afford to buy their own homes and struggle with soaring housing costs, with the Lyons Housing Commission finding that public concern about the issue is at its highest for 40 years.
There are more than a million people on housing waiting lists in England, while more than 6 million face tenure insecurity and no prospect of ever buying their own home, according to the ResPublica thinktank.