Keep our national housing target, tackle the housing crisis and WIN!

Tackling the housing crisis is one of the most important things Lib Dems can do. As the Leader of Chelmsford City Council I agonise about housing every day. We have over 450 homeless families in my city this week, and no houses to put them in. 

So I welcome the huge number of positive things in the conference housing motion F31 and policy paper that will allow us to do that.

But one of the other really important things I want to do as a Lib Dem council leader is to help get many more Lib Dem MPs elected.  And removing the national housing target (which we voted FOR just two years ago) will make that job harder.

We’ve already seen public criticism for the removal of targets. It doesn’t matter how much the leaders try to explain that “actually, removing the target will mean we are able to build more houses”. We should have learned long ago that when you’re explaining you’re losing.

Voting against Amendment 1 to Motion F31 means Labour and the press will be able to send a simple message that we are NIMBYs who are letting down young people who need homes. To win seats at the next general election we will need those young people to vote for us. It’s so disappointing that we don’t seem to have learned any of the lessons of the tuition fee debacle, and are instead intent on gifting Labour an opportunity to once again portray us as a party that betrays young people.

It’s also really disappointing to see the leadership argue that keeping a target is a “developers charter”. It’s not the existence of a national target that hands power to developers, but Tory councils and the Tory government. If we scrap our national target, our chances of being elected to replace them diminish and we can’t build anything.

That’s why I’m sponsoring amendment one to Motion F31, which calls for us to keep a national housing target. However, and this is a crucial bit, the amendment also provides for a review of the way it’s allocated to local authorities – so that it is achievable and EVERY council is encouraged and able to build the sustainable communities we so desperately need.


* Stephen Robinson is Liberal Democrat Leader of Chelmsford City Council, where they were re-elected in May with an increased majority, and campaigned for substantial amounts of new housing.

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  • William Francis 25th Sep '23 - 9:30am

    Well said!

    We can’t afford to gift Labour a new attack line and throw young people under the bus.

  • Lois Speller 25th Sep '23 - 12:09pm

    Totally agree. Houses need building but need to be genuinely affordable, and decent social housing provides stability of tenure.

  • Iain Sharpe 26th Sep '23 - 7:24am

    Stephen’s evangelical-style speech to conference was by any standards impressive, to the point of almost getting a standing ovation. It is great that Chelmsford residents are so unequivocally positive about new development.

    Also impressive was the leaflet from Chelmsford Liberal Democrats, circulated earlier this year by ALDC as an example of good campaigning, which assured readers that:

    “The Lib Dems campaigned against and voted against the Conservative Local Plan in 2018, that locked in the Warren Farm development. Writtle’s Conservative councillors voted FOR the Warren Farm development.”

    In other words within Stephen’s local authority area Liberal Democrats are going out of their way to disavow responsibility for, and play up their opposition to, a development that has by definition been through the tortuous local plan process and been approved as a suitable site.

    Liberal Democrats are often accused of being unprincipled and two-faced, for example saying one thing in rah-rah speeches to conference and another in election leaflets. Some of us voting in the minority yesterday, battle scarred by the gruelling experience of delivering new homes in what can seem a relentlessly hostile climate, were simply trying to save us from accusations of hypocrisy that can appear more justified than we would like to think.

  • I don’t see how anyone can be anti housing targets, but at the the same time pro a liberal immigration and asylum policy. Unless you are going to put our new residents in tent cities or barges.

    Every person who comes to live in this country is entitled to a home, it is simple maths that the house building needs to keep pace with the population increase, regardless of what is causing the population increase.

  • @Martin “ Did you follow the debate?”

    Not the conference debate, as I wasn’t there. LDV hasn’t really covered the debate – a casual reader of LDV would have no real idea what “ Amendment 1 to Motion F31” was actually proposing.

    From LDV it seems the bland 380,000 “new homes” target may have become 380,000 “social housing (units)”.

  • Maureen Treadwell 30th Sep '23 - 3:51pm

    I am not altogether sure we haven’t already got enough homes. It is just that the empty homes are all a long way north of the M4! We need more investment in the north of England. Otherwise, the Southeast will end up as one big housing estate and the north will continue to bumble along the bottom of the pile. I also think our approach to the private rental sector needs thinking about. Recently there has been ia dramatic sell-off caused by a massive increase in both interest rates and legislation. Less supply = higher rents. There needs to be a fair deal for both landlords and tenants. Most of the problems are being created by landlords operating below the radar and rogue agents. Schemes like licensing could make matters worse because only the good landlords will comply. Surely our focus should be on the supply of social homes and, more importantly, how it should be funded. The private rental sector was intended to encourage mobility of the workforce not as a replacement for the social sector but seems to have become a whipping boy for this failing. My fear is that those owner occupiers moving a way for few years, may be reluctant to let their own home because of various ‘rental reforms’, which will reduce supply and inevitably drive up rents. I think, in the light of recent events, the whole policy needs looking at. It will leave us wide open to criticism.

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