Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, visited Stevenage yesterday (Thursday, November 2) to take a look at the Kenilworth Close development.

More than 200 properties are being built on the site, including 118 council homes.

At the recent Labour party conference, party leader Sir Keir Starmer promised that a Labour government would build 1.5 million homes, including "the next generation" of new towns.

While he focused on the "obstacles" affecting the "millions [of people] who deserve the security of home ownership", Ms Reeves - speaking alongside Kevin Bonavia, Labour's parliamentary candidate for Stevenage - said that social housing is "an incredibly important part of the mix" too.

She continued: "The great thing about this development is that it is a mixture of homes for private ownership, but also social housing and independent living to help people with mobility issues.

"This is exactly the sort of development that we want to see but ... on a scale that is commensurate with the challenge.

"We're lucky here in Stevenage to have a fantastic Labour council investing in housing, but the truth is across the country housebuilding is at a 70-year low and the proportion of people owning their own home is going backwards.

The Comet: Ms Reeves and Mr Bonavia with Cllr Jeannette Thomas, executive member for housing at Stevenage Borough Council.Ms Reeves and Mr Bonavia with Cllr Jeannette Thomas, executive member for housing at Stevenage Borough Council. (Image: Labour Party)

"It is now clear that Labour are the party of home ownership, not the Conservatives."

Mr Bonavia added: "New towns need to renew themselves and we're in a place today showing what a new town like Stevenage can do.

"We've got a Labour council building affordable homes - if we had a Labour government, just imagine what we could do across the whole country."

The Conservatives committed to building 300,000 homes per year in their manifesto at the last general election, but recent figures show that they are falling short of this - in 2021/22, 232,820 homes were added to England's housing supply.

That remains significantly higher than during the period after the financial crisis, with the nadir reached in 2012/13, when only 124,720 homes were added to England's housing supply.

Asked why voters should trust Labour to deliver on the housebuilding promises that the Conservatives have been unable to keep, Ms Reeves said: "We've committed to reforming the planning system, but also to making sure that when new housing is built that the infrastructure is there to support it.

"[That is] why this new development here in Stevenage is supported by the local community, because it is houses available for local people, for social rent or to buy, and it will have a community space as well as shops.


"It's housing that is supported by the local community, which is one of the things that the Conservatives have got wrong.

"But the Conservatives have also got rid of their targets, and that's why we've got housebuilding at a 70-year low.

"We need housing, to give people the security that comes from having the key to the door of a home that is your own, whether that is rented or owned.

"And, for too many people, that dream of a secure home is falling further and further out of reach. We will change that with a Labour government."

National targets were set to be imposed on local councils in the forthcoming Levelling Up Bill, but a rebellion by Conservative MPs led to a change of stance.

The Comet: Work is progressing on the Kenilworth Close development in Stevenage.Work is progressing on the Kenilworth Close development in Stevenage. (Image: Christopher Day/Newsquest)

The government position is now that "housing targets remain, but are a starting point, with new flexibilities to reflect local circumstances".

During her visit to Stevenage, Ms Reeves also spoke about what the future of new towns may look like in Hertfordshire and across the UK.

She said: "Stevenage is a brilliant example of a new town that has been incredibly successful, and it's great to see new development happening in Stevenage.

"At Labour party conference, we announced our ambition to build 1.5 million homes over the course of the next parliament, including two new towns modelled on what we see here in Stevenage."