Is Conservative manifesto a plan to intensify the housing crisis?

Tony Gosling tony at
Sun Apr 19 00:49:32 BST 2015

A comprehensive plan for housing crisis

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

<>Andrew Fisher assesses Tory housing policy

manifesto was launched today and housing was at its centre, with 
right-to-buy revived and extended to housing association properties.

Under Thatcher era right to buy, 1.7 million council homes were sold 
off (over one-third of which are now in the hands of private 
landlords) and most were never replaced. The proportion of people 
living in council housing has declined from 30% in 1979 to just 10% today.

Since Cameron's government revived right to buy in 2012 by offering 
higher discounts, 17,205 more council homes have been sold off. Only 
2,712 have been replaced (16%). They promised properties would be 
replaced and they do again in their manifesto. Fool me once, shame on you ...

While David Cameron repeated Margaret Thatcher's "property-owning 
democracy" schtick (as if home ownership in some never specified way 
enhances democracy), but the reality is that right-to-buy has helped 
home ownership levels fall - along with other Tory policies including 
the deregulation of credit, rising inequality 
Danny Dorling cites as the major factor), explicit and implicit 
subsidies for buy-to-let landlords, and the removal of rent control 
in 1989. Home ownership levels today are lower than when Margaret 
Thatcher was defenestrated from office in 1991.

Cameron and Osborne have had a clear policy to keep house prices high 
- and therefore out of for households on average incomes - through a 
range of policies. House building has been allowed to sink to a 
record low, with fewer than 150,000 homes built in every year of the 
coalition government. Under New Labour, only 190,000 homes a year 
were built, which was itself a low for a post-war government.

Constraining supply of housing has helped keep house prices high, as 
have mortgage subsidies like help-to-buy, which have combined to form 
a pincer movement: increasing the supply of housing finance while 
constricting housing supply.

The Conservative manifesto offers nothing for private tenants. In 
fact, private tenants are only mentioned once - and that is in the 
context of their landlord checking their immigration status. And of 
course by cutting social housing, and keeping house prices out of 
reach, then more people will be living in private rented 
accommodation - and claiming more on housing benefit.

Private tenants suffer high rents and often 
pay (with the state picking up the tab in housing benefit and tax 
credits) - those on low or middle incomes have no chance of saving 
the deposit for a home (which due to inflated house prices is 
considerably higher than ever before), and likewise little chance of 
ever getting the security of social housing.

Plans in the manifesto to restrict social housing and housing benefit 
from young people and from migrants will doubtless increase 
homelessness and rough sleeping (both up under this government).

So the Conservative policy attacks the safety net offered by social 
housing (by reducing its supply), offers nothing to increase 
housebuilding or reduce prices or reduce rents. It is a recipe for 
intensifying the housing crisis that they have cooked up since Thatcher.

Elsewhere in their manifesto they advocate reducing the benefit cap 
further, deporting more people from their communities and 
accelerating the social cleansing of many parts of many cities - 
assisted by policies such as cutting local housing allowance and the 
bedroom tax.

The Conservative manifesto is therefore a plan to intensify the housing crisis.

    * Andrew Fisher is author of 
Failed Experiment ... and how to build an economy that works

See also:
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