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Labour 'to tackle housing shortage'
A Labour government would ban housing developers from marketing properties overseas until local people have had a chance to buy or rent them, Ed Miliband has promised.
Mr Miliband said it was "scandalous" that entire blocks of new homes in sought-after areas are standing empty after being marketed and sold exclusively to investors from abroad on "buy-to-leave" deals.
The Labour leader blamed the schemes for contributing to a "chronic shortage of affordable homes", particularly in London, which has forced house prices beyond the reach of many British families.
Labour has promised to build at least 200,000 new homes annually by 2020 if it wins next year's general election, by creating a new generation of garden cities, targeting land-hoarding by developers with a "use it or lose it" policy and giving councils powers to force neighbouring authorities to co-operate on planning proposals under a new "right to grow".
And the party will consult with local authorities on doubling council tax on empty properties and closing loopholes which allow premises to be classed as occupied if they have a few items of furniture in place.
Writing in the Evening Standard, Mr Miliband said that housing was the most pressing element of the "cost of living crisis" for millions of families in London.
"F or many of those Londoners who used to dream of owning their own home, their hopes are fading as fast as the prices rise beyond their reach," he said.
"The cause is simple: there is a chronic shortage of affordable homes in Britain, and nowhere is this clearer than in London.
"It is a problem for young people, for families trying to get on the housing ladder, and it is also causing deep difficulty for employers, both in the public and private sector. Indeed, the CBI recently highlighted the cost and lack of suitable housing for skilled employees as the biggest threat to London's position as one of the world's greatest cities for business.
"The shortage did not begin with this government. But under David Cameron it is getting much worse. The number of homes built across the country in the past three years is lower than at any time since the 1920s. It should be double that: Britain can do better.
"In London, the Mayor set himself an annual target of 40,000 new homes. Many experts believed that was inadequate. But last year he built only half that number. London can do better than this too...
" The next Labour government will act. We will tackle the shortage of homes. We will stand up for first-time buyers and homebuilders. We will address the scandals in the private rented sector and close the loopholes which allow desperately needed housing to stand empty for years."
Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps said: "Labour failed an entire generation by not building enough houses but Ed Miliband has no plan to deal with the problem.
"We're taking the difficult decisions to deal with Labour's mess - delivering hundreds of thousands of new affordable homes through proper investment and fixing the planning system.
"Labour continue to fail in Wales, but if Ed Miliband was Prime Minister they would fail everyone in Britain."