Labour pledges mortgage guarantee scheme and housebuilding reforms

Keir Starmer has announced a proposed replacement scheme for the Conservatives’ Help to Buy loan guarantees for first time buyers, called Freedom to Buy.

The Labour Party believes that the scheme could help 80,000 young people get onto the housing ladder over the next five years, although commentators have accused the scheme of once more “stoking demand” rather than fixing the supply problem in housebuilding. The current Help to Buy Scheme was due to finish in June 2025, but Labour has described Freedom to Buy as a “permanent” alternative.

Starmer commented that Labour will be launching a package of reforms of planning to help free up supply, with the Conservatives having failed to hit the 300,000 homes target: “The Labour Party will be on the side of the builders not the blockers.” Labour said they will bring in a “targeted” set of reforms of “housing, planning and the land market” if they get into power on 4 July. Speaking to Radio 4’s Today programme, Shadow Housing Minister Matthew Pennycook said that it would be “harder for councils to stop new builds,” and that Labour’s target of 1.5 million homes over 5 years would be a “stretching” one, reflecting the challenges currently seen in delivery of units across the UK.

Pennycook said: “Planning consents are a record low, and we have to rely more on things like modular factory-based building.” He admitted there were major workforce challenges, but also said that the aim was to “stop this contentious debate we have about development.” He said this resulted from the situation where “far too often there is poor quality design, and developments don’t have the basic services, like GP surgeries and schools, and it’s rightly resisted. We have to change the conversation around what development means in this country.”

Labour previously announced that it would be prioritising building on ‘grey belt’ land to free up previously untouched areas protected by ‘green belt’ policy.

Lynda Clark, CEO of First Time Buyer Group, commented on the new Freedom to Buy scheme: “It is vital that whichever party voted into power takes the housing crisis seriously; the average age of a first time buyer in the UK is 34.

“Labour’s announcement today demonstrates a long-term strategy to boost first time buyer homeownership, providing a route onto the ladder with a more achievable 5% deposit.”