Blackburn MP Kate Hollern writes her fortnightly column for the Lancashire Telegraph

At this time of national and international crisis I was pleased to be in the audience last Tuesday at Labour Party Conference in Liverpool, as Keir Starmer unveiled Labour’s housing proposals. The party’s plan for housing will form part of our vision for a decade of “national renewal”, should we win the next election.

There was a time where housing issues were largely concentrated in big cities like the capital. However, after over a decade of Tory mismanagement, I am contacted by constituents with housing issues on almost a daily basis.

Blackburn has a shortage of social housing, and private sector rent is rising fast, compounding the cost of living crisis for many. As part of my position on the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee, I have been party to multiple inquiries into UK housing, several of which are still ongoing.

The system is broken. After 13 years of Tory chaos, the aspiration of many young people to get on the housing ladder is increasingly unachievable.

The current housing crisis is years in the making. The deficit of available homes – that is, the number of homes that should have been constructed in recent decades in order for present supply to match demand – stands at over 4 million.

Despite this, in the spring, the government effectively abandoned its pledge to build 300,000 houses a year. In reality, it was never close to achieving its housebuilding target.

The UK also continues to lag well behind much of Europe when it comes to housebuilding. The need to address this crisis is pressing. Not only this, it is appalling that the current government’s focus of the past thirteen years has not been on increasing provision of affordable and social housing – so there has been nothing to help young individuals and families get onto the housing ladder.

Ultimately, without subsidy, housing developers will only ever want to build profitable housing – meaning executive housing. Whilst it is to the local council’s credit that developers have been attracted to our area, and we are seeing new residents move in, this has done little to address the atrocious shortage of the types of housing that residents on low incomes need.

Labour, however, would oversee the building of 300,000 new homes every year - 1.5 million over five years - if elected to government. The Labour leader used his speech to announce the plan to use dedicated state-backed companies to build a wave of new towns near English cities.

This new generation of “Labour new towns” would involve building on the “grey belt” – areas of disused land within the green belt that encompass spaces such as wasteland and vacant car parks. A six-month consultation would be initiated, in which councils would be invited to submit bids. Local authorities would also be able to put the housing built towards meeting their housing quotas.

There would also be limits on the ability of councils to stop developments on under-used urban land. A new planning rulebook encouraging Georgian-style townhouse blocks would allow developers to meet criteria. Crucially, these new homes would be accompanied by the necessary infrastructure. Labour’s housebuilding plans would target areas with good transport links, and the provision of vital services including GPs and schools would be ensured.

Labour’s plans would go a long way in improving the prospects of those saddled with high rents and struggling to afford to buy a first home, and they have been welcomed by several of the UK’s biggest housebuilders.

I am hopeful that this policy may also present an opportunity to ensure that new homes are fitted with renewable energy infrastructure such as solar panels and heat pumps.

It is vital that tackling the housing crisis is given top priority, and I am pleased that the indications from Keir Starmer are that this will be a core element of the next election manifesto. I will be closely following our attempts to deliver on this commitment.