The Labour Party’s focus on council housing does not address the need for good quality homes for people on average wages
At the Conservative Party Conference the housing minister Gavin Barwell completely dismissed Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge to significantly increase the construction of council homes, by suggesting it will actually lead to further divide in the society rather than closing the gap, and I think he’s probably right.
Although Barwell’s statement is controversial, and won’t be well received by everyone, it’s difficult to argue a case where vastly increasing the delivery of council housing is ever going to solve the current affordability crisis felt by open-market renters and buyers - those people who will never ‘qualify’ for council housing.
If anything, it will just further drive the wedge between haves and have nots and do nothing to bridge the ever increasing social divide.
Of course it is a key responsibility of a civilised society to continue to provide housing solutions to anyone in desperate need, however, what is needed is a fairer system - a system which doesn’t take with one hand and give back with the other (why pummel people on low incomes with income tax and then feed them housing benefit?), and a system which doesn’t consign people to council/social housing for generations, while doing little or nothing to service the crying need for good quality homes for people on normal wages in normal circumstances.
It’s encouraging that there are at last noises coming out of central government which aren’t looking at overcomplicating what is essentially a very simple marketplace
To find a solution to the housing crisis that will work long term, it’s time to start doing things differently. Why is it that housing should be badged as affordable in perpetuity? Why aren’t we as a society looking harder at ways of delivering homes for all, and ensuring that they’re delivered by the right people?
Also, the government’s commitment at the conference to the guaranteed purchase scheme should be welcomed. Not only will this give some (particularly smaller) developers confidence to increase the speed at which they deliver homes, it may also have the consequence of more homes being built for people rather than speculators.
With an exit price secured, developers will be less incentivised to sell to off-plan investors looking for capital growth, who then flip the units pumping the price up (a major cause of whole market inflation in London). They’ll be more likely to hold on to homes and sell to those people who actually want to live in them. Again, revolutionary, or achingly simple?
It’s encouraging that there are at last noises coming out of central government which aren’t looking at overcomplicating what is essentially a very simple marketplace. People need homes, at a price which won’t cripple them. Society needs homes for all, which don’t create a paradigm which further divides us.
The new minister for housing, and the new chair of the HCA have made a storming start - let’s hope that they stay focused on the simplicity of the problem and continue to stimulate a clear and simple response.
Steve Sanham, managing director, HUB