The rise in homelessness shows there is something “deeply wrong with our country”, Jeremy Corbyn said as he set out Labour plans to build a million “genuinely affordable” properties over 10 years.
The Labour leader promised a “new era of social housing” and a return to a system where a decent home is “not a privilege for the few”.
The plan involves building 100,000 affordable homes a year – with Labour promising to tear up Conservative rules which allow homes worth up to £450,000 to be classed as affordable.
Launching a consultation on Labour’s plans at an event in London, Mr Corbyn said it was a “time of crisis for our housing system”.
“A million on housing waiting lists, tens of thousands of children in temporary accommodation without a home to call their own, homelessness up by 50% since 2010, the indignity of sleeping on our streets at night or sofa-surfing among friends,” he said.
There were “sky high” rents and house prices, and “luxury flats proliferating across our big cities while social housing is starved of investment”.
He said that housing had “become a means of speculation for the wealthy few”.
On the plight of homeless people, he said: “There is something that I think is deeply wrong with our country that we tolerate the idea that several thousand of our citizens should sleep rough on our streets every night, or if a church is open they will sleep on church pews.
“We can, must and will do better than that in the future.”
He promised a Labour government would “immediately purchase enough places so that rough sleeping can end as quickly as we can possibly do it”, while also building more housing and move-on accommodation for people leaving shelters.
As part of the reforms to the housing market, Labour would create a new English Land Sovereign Trust – backed by compulsory purchase powers – to make land available for building more cheaply.
Under the scheme, landowners would lose a slice of the extra value created by the granting of planning permission, which can see the price of agricultural land rocket 100-fold from £21,000 to £2.1 million a hectare outside London.
Labour always make big promises and always fail to deliver them Housing Minister Dominic Raab
In response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy, Labour would introduce new decent homes targets for social landlords, including fire safety for the first time. And a new independent national organisation and a Commissioner would be created to represent the views of tenants.
Local authorities in every part of England would face a “duty to deliver affordable homes”.
The policies would be driven through by a new Department for Housing and monitored by an independent watchdog.
Labour accused Conservatives of making “bogus” claims on affordable house-building on their watch, by stretching the definition to include properties for sale at up to £450,000 or rented at 80% of market value – more than £1,500 a month in some areas.
A new definition would be linked to local incomes to ensure homes are genuinely affordable. And Labour will suspend the “right to buy” scheme as part of a package of measures to stop the loss of existing social rented homes.
Housing Minister Dominic Raab dismissed the plans, saying: “Labour always make big promises and always fail to deliver them.”
He claimed that Labour would “kick away the housing ladder from everyone living in council houses by taking away their Right to Buy, just as Labour did in Wales”.