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Miliband to give Londoners priority in housing market

Ed Miliband has pledged that a Labour government will give Londoners priority over foreign housing investors, preventing developers from marketing properties overseas until local people have had a chance to buy or rent.Writing in the London Evening Standard, the Labour leader said it is "scandalous" that entire blocks of homes remain unoccupied while there are 180,000 people on the list for social housing. Such properties are marketed and sold to foreign investors on a "buy-to-leave" deal.He pledged to tackle the nation's chronic housing shortage by building new towns in the south-east. This will help to alleviate the pressure on London, he claimed.Mr Miliband stressed the economic importance of affordable homes, saying the Confederation of British Industry recently highlighted the lack of such properties as constituting "the biggest threat to London's position as one of the world's greatest cities for business".Several other measures are proposed by the Labour leader to address the housing shortage. A Labour government would take action against "home-blocking local authorities" that have prevented neighbouring authorities building new homes.A "use it or lose it" policy would also be introduced giving communities the chance to compulsorily purchase land that has been earmarked for development but where no new homes are being built.He also said councils could be given extra powers to free up unoccupied property."We will consult on allowing councils to double the amount of additional council tax they can charge on empty properties, and close loopholes which mean homes are not considered empty if they are furnished with just a single table and chair," he wrote.Reforms to the private rented sector would be made to regulate letting agents and end "rip-off fees". A national register of landlords would be established to raise the standard of homes available for rent.Mr Miliband reiterated his promise to build at least 200,000 decent homes by 2020 if a Labour government is elected in 2015.  His latest intervention is a timely one, following a warning by the Ernst and Young ITEM Club that the average price of a home in London could reach £600,000 by 2018. 

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