Housing at Party Conference Season  

The conferences of both main parties took place in October. With this possibly being the final conference season before the next general election, both parties are beginning to flesh out their offer to the electorate, and both made important announcements in the areas of housing, rebalancing and net zero.  


Conservative Party Conference 

This year’s Conference Season saw the Conservatives go first, and any focus the Prime Minister may have wished to put on his government’s approach to rebalancing during his trip to the North West was ultimately overshadowed by his decision to scrap the Manchester leg of HS2.  

Rishi Sunak used his speech as an opportunity to present himself as the candidate for change in a future general election and announced new education reforms and an age-related ban on smoking. Housing was notable by its absence in the prime minister’s speech to his party conference, with Sunak only making a brief reference to housebuilding. But while he may not have given much focus to housing in his own address, members of his Cabinet did announce new policies relevant for housing providers over the Conference period and the fringe events had very active discussions on a range housing issues.  


Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund Wave 2.2  

One significant housing announcement came from newly appointed Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, Claire Coutinho. In her speech, Coutinho announced that £80 million would be made available “to insulate thousands of social homes”, through Wave 2.2 of the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund 

An important condition of this new funding is that housing providers who previously received funding through Wave 2.1 will not be eligible for this wave. Applications for funding are expected to open from 20th November 2023, and further information is available here. 


Long-Term Plan for Towns 

The major housing-related announcement was Michael Gove’s ‘Long-Term Plan for Towns’. Fifty-five towns are set to benefit from the plan in total, which will see £1.1 billion collectively spent over 10 years with the aim of regenerating towns and attracting further private and philanthropic investment. 

Each town will receive £20 million in endowment-style funding and support, to be spent on local priorities such as regenerating high streets and ensuring public safety. Each of the towns named in the Plan will also be required to establish a Long-Term Plan for the town, to be consulted on with residents, and to set up a ‘Towns Board’ to bring together community leaders, employers, local authorities and the local MP to oversee the delivery of the Plan.  

Of the 55 listed towns, 25 are in the North: with ten in the North West, six in the North East and nine in Yorkshire & Humber. A full list of the towns, arranged by region, can be found in the table below: 

Towns listed in the ‘Long Term Plan for Towns’  
North West   North East  Yorkshire & Humber  
Darwen (Blackburn with Darwen)  Eston (Redcar and Cleveland)   Grimsby (North East Lincolnshire) 
Chadderton (Oldham)   Jarrow (South Tyneside)   Castleford (Wakefield) 
Heywood (Rochdale)   Washington (Sunderland)  Doncaster  
Ashton-under-Lyne (Tameside)   Blyth (Northumberland)   Rotherham 
Accrington (Hyndburn)   Hartlepool   Barnsley  
Leigh (Wigan)  Spennymoor (County Durham)   Scunthorpe (North Lincolnshire)  
Farnworth (Bolton)   Keighley (Bradford)  
Nelson (Pendle)   Dewsbury (Kirklees)  
Kirkby (Knowsley)   Scarborough (North Yorkshire)  


Labour Party Conference  

The Labour Party’s Conference in Liverpool saw housing take centre stage. Keir Starmer pledged in his leader’s speech that a Labour government would oversee the construction of 1.5 million new homes within the first five years of power, through a range of new policies to boost housebuilding. The self-professed “YIMBY” (Yes In My Back Yard) Leader of the Opposition pledged that Labour would reform the planning system to accelerate the approval process, and accepted that Labour would need to overcome local opposition if it were to meet its housebuilding goals. The housing policy proposals in the leader’s speech included:  

  • A new generation of ‘new towns’ with homes built in Georgian design  
  • Release of greenbelt land of low natural or environmental value, termed “the greybelt”, for housebuilding  
  • A package of devolution measures to hand more power over planning and control over housing investment to regional mayors  
  • A ‘planning passport’ to accelerate approval of high-density proposals on urban brownfield sites  
  • New development corporations with power to remove ‘blockages’  


Affordable Housing 

Angela Rayner also vowed that a Labour government would oversee “the biggest boost to affordable housing for a generation”. The Shadow Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities pledged to strengthen the rules around Section 106 agreements and “prevent developers wriggling out of their responsibilities” to deliver affordable housing. Rayner said Labour would upskill local authorities on Section 106 negotiations, increase transparency around the viability process used to determine whether developers can provide their obligated social homes and “ensure developers could only challenge cases where there are genuine barriers to delivering these new homes”.  

Rayner also pledged to increase the flexibility of the Homes England Affordable Homes Programme, by increasing the proportion of funds that can be used to acquire existing homes. This follows the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) handing £1.9 billion back to the Treasury in July following departmental underspends, including a £600 million underspend on the Affordable Homes Programme.  


Labour and Net Zero 

There were no new major announcements in the area of domestic energy efficiency at Labour Conference. Ed Miliband did use his speech to re-commit to Labour’s Warm Homes Plan, which aims to insulate 19 million homes across the country, including 4 million in the North. Labour reconfirmed its pledge to invest £6 billion a year in home energy in the second half of the parliament, something the NHC called for in our Real Homes, Real Change showcase [link]. More information about the Warm Homes Plan is available here