Cooper pledges to build decent housing for all

Regulations will be reformed to make it easier for councils to build more homes, the housing minister said today.

Councils will be encouraged to build more council houses and, in a move towards growing flexibility, they will also be allowed to build affordable homes for key workers, Yvette Cooper told the Labour party conference.

Ms Cooper set out targets to increase social housing. Building rates will rise from 30,000 homes a year to 45,000 new social houses by 2010, with the eventual aim of 50,000.

The commitment marks a sign from Ms Cooper that the government will not frame the housing debate purely to meet the concerns of middle class parents whose children have been priced off the housing ladder.

She presented poor housing as a social and economic justice issue, as well as a barrier to achieving targets in education and poverty.

In a mark of how far housing has risen up the political agenda, Ms Cooper delivered her housing speech to a standing ovation from delegates in Bournemouth.

Ms Cooper said housing must become “the progressive struggle of the 21st century.”

House building has not been meeting requirements for a generation, she said. This has led to rapid price rises, meaning half of first-time buyers are now reliant on the Bank of Mum and Dad to buy a home.

She said: “Your chances of becoming a home owner should not depend on whether your parents or grant parents were home owners before you.”

Ms Cooper slammed the Conservatives for blocking targets for three million new homes by 2020.

She echoed Ken Livingstone’s comments yesterday, saying the Conservatives are only willing to accept new homes if they are not built in Tory seats.

Ms Cooper said affordable housing must be spread in “every corner of the country”, including rural and northern areas.

But she said new developments must not lead to a return of ghettoised council estates.

She told delegates: “Never again should we tolerate the housing apartheid that decades of new development delivered in Britain.

“Today we must pledge to build truly mixed communities. You should walk down the street and have no idea which door is private, which is social housing, or which is a key workers starter home.”

Yesterday, Ms Cooper heard from the chief executive of Shelter how government efforts to make housing a priority are being undermined by councils rejecting planning applications.

Adam Samson told a lunchtime fringe meeting housing was on the agenda in Westminster but now ministers had to take the battle to constituencies.