Celia Dignan

Labour housing policy: for the many, not the few

Celia Dignan
Labour housing policy: for the many, not the few

HORNSEY AND WOOD GREEN CLP was one of 16 constituencies, including our Haringey neighbours Tottenham CLP, to submit a contemporary motion on housing to Labour Party conference.


Our motion made a series of hardhitting demands of both Labour councils and a future Labour government. These sought to end the current situation in which housing has become a commodity, an investment opportunity in which property speculators make obscene profits while ordinary people are increasingly unable to access social housing or genuinely affordable and decent private rented property, nor afford to buy their own home.

As Labour shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said in his conference speech, the Tories have created a rentier economy, where wealth is created not by what you produce, but by the rent you charge.

In Haringey both Labour constituency parties and both MPs, Catherine West and David Lammy, have opposed the Labour-run council’s proposed regeneration scheme known as the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV).

The HDV, a joint venture with Lendlease, a property company whose track record is incompatible with Labour values, would effectively privatise Åí2 billion of publicly-owned homes and other council buildings - displacing thousands of local people who have received only weak assurances over their right to return to social homes on the same rents within the same communities. A strong community-based campaign is also actively opposing the HDV and, in addition to grassroots mobilisation, it has led a legal challenge to the scheme. It was against this background that Hornsey and Wood Green overwhelmingly agreed to put forward its housing motion to conference.

Many of the housing motions submitted made the same or similar demands - so when delegates from the constituencies submitting these turned up to the compositing meeting we expected it to be a straightforward matter to produce a composite motion and agree movers and seconders.

Unfortunately, this did not prove to be the case. Labour policy staffers had prepared a significantly watered-down version of the motion which stripped it of its radical demands and, led by the shadow housing minister, they lobbied hard for this version to go forward for debate. It took two and a half hours of forceful discussion before we were successful in restoring the key political demands to the composite, crucially for councils to:

  • cease disposing of or transferring public land, council estates and property;
  • require one-to-one replacement within the same neighbourhood of council homes sold or demolished under regeneration schemes;
  • and support fully binding ballot rights for tenants in regeneration projects.

Tottenham delegate councillor Noah Tucker ably moved the composite motion during Tuesday’s debate, with Gravesham CLP seconding. It won overwhelming support from delegates, a significant and welcome victory after attempts to gut the motion of its politics.

The following day Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn made his keynote address to conference and to our delight dedicated a section of his speech to the demands in our motion.

Jeremy said: “When councils come forward with proposals for regeneration, we will put down two markers based on one simple principle: regeneration under a Labour government will be for the benefit of the local people - not private developers, not property speculators.

“First, people that live on an estate that’s developed must get a home on the same site and the same terms as before. No social cleansing, no jacking up rents, no exorbitant ground rents.

“And second, councils will have to win a ballot of existing tenants before any redevelopment scheme can take place. Real regeneration yes - but for the many not the few.”

On the Saturday following conference Hornsey and Wood Green CLP members were out on Haringey’s streets delivering Labour’s message of hope along with our own leaflet containing the text of the composite motion and Jeremy’s speech. This was well received by the local community.

This is not the end of the battle against the HDV in Haringey - and indeed the council’s leadership has already rejected calls to halt the HDV. But it has strengthened the morale and the will of Haringey Labour members and community campaigners to defeat the HDV and to ensure we return a Labour government that will build good quality and genuinely affordable homes for the many not the few.

is chair of Hornsey and Wood Green CLP