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Meeting housing challenge head-on

Letter from Westminster - 15 November 2004

Housing issues featured highly on the Commons agenda last week, with the Housing Bill reaching its final stages. This is wide-ranging Bill that will, for example, protect tenants by introducing a mandatory national licensing scheme on Houses of Multiple Occupation, improve the home buying and selling process through new Home Information Packs, and introduce further measures to tackle antisocial behaviour.

Labour believes that everyone deserves an affordable, decent home. Yet whilst a million more people now own their own home than in 1997, decades of under-investment have left many people struggling to get a foot on the housing ladder. This isn't just bad news for our children, it can affect us all by making it difficult to recruit and retain key public service workers, like teachers, police and NHS staff.

Problems that are decades in the making cannot be solved overnight, but this is a challenge that Labour is meeting head-on. More houses are now being built - many of them on derelict sites. We have doubled investment in affordable housing, and we are breaking down unnecessary barriers to development. But it is clear that these efforts need to be sustained over the long-term if we are to tackle the backlog and meet the increase in household formation.

Labour is determined to do more. The Tories, on the other hand, have committed themselves to £18 billion cuts over two years, which includes a £400 million cut in real terms spending on housing. This would be, I believe, a disaster for Bristol South.

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