Labour pledges to ‘get Britain building again’ at annual conference

The Labour Party Conference in Liverpool was heavy on housing and redevelopment with pledges of new homes and affordable costs repeated from speech to speech.

“We are the builders,” was Leader Sir Keir Starmer’s declaration as he pledged 1.5 million new homes in five years if Labour were to be elected at the next general election. Starmer vowed a “decade of national renewal” across the board, and used the current housing crisis as a means to distinguish his party from the current government.

Notably, the conference was opened by Angela Rayner, shadow secretary for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, who pledged to “deliver the biggest boost in affordable and social housing in a generation”. Rayner’s speech remained broadly in this vein; she criticised the current Conservative government, and those preceding them, for “[snatching] away […] secure, affordable homes” and instead bolstering “unaffordable private rents” that betrayed the regular worker.

Rayner focused on affordable housing, of which she promised Labour would deliver both affordable homes and council housing. The Affordable Homes Programme proposed would stop developers “wriggling out of responsibilities”.

Starmer’s speech was equally housing heavy, as he pledged to overhaul the “restrictive planning system” of the current government without “tearing up the green belt”. The reintroduction of housing targets would allow for more prevalent building on the green belt, but Starmer also reiterated his commitment to the preservation of protected areas.

Rather, Starmer referenced building upon the “grey belt”, land lacking in biodiversity or heritage that would serve the purpose of redevelopment. He stressed that the UK needed to “get real about where we’re going to build,” while staying on track with green energy targets. He blamed greed for the underuse of viable sites: “no more land-bankers sitting comfortably on brownfield sites while rents in their community rise […] no more inertia in the face of resistance”. The “rut” of present can only be escaped by “a serious government”, not the current “shallow men and women of Westminster”.

Starmer echoed shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, who told the conference that Labour would reform the “antiquated” planning system with “once-in-a-

generation” reforms. Starmer promised “the next generation of Labour new towns” with “good jobs […] good infrastructure” using “good land for affordable homes”.

“The dream of home ownership” Starmer implored, “has become […] out of reach for millions”. He spoke of his own childhood, and the “springboard” that his family owning their own home gave him. Home ownership will be a priority under a Labour government, Starmer stressed, echoing Rayner’s summation of house prices as “increasing year on year so no one can afford to buy”.

The conference’s take on housing built upon the way in which Labour has been contrasting itself to the current government in recent months. Talk of spiraling costs and unaffordable rents under the current government was accompanied by promises of affordability and reliability, that can only happen, in the words of Starmer, by getting “cranes in the sky”.