Manifesto commitment to build a new generation of social housing undermined by lack of funding and targets

The industry has given a lukewarm response to the Conservatives’ plan to build a “new generation of social housing”, with experts pointing out the policy isn’t explained in detail or backed by new money.

Prior to election campaigning being suspended on Tuesday in the wake of the Manchester terrorist attack, the parties had been laying out their various election manifestos.

Theresa May presented the Conservatives’ manifesto in Halifax last Thursday, with the social housing pledge meant to get top billing, but coverage was instead dominated by the party’s controversial social care policy and a subsequent U-turn at the start of this week.

On social housing, the Conservatives promised to build thousands of new homes under “council housing deals” using low-cost capital funding. These homes would then be sold privately after 10-15 years - with tenants given first refusal - and the cash recycled into building more.

But critics pointed out the policy was not allocated funding and gave no indication of how many social homes would be built - unlike Labour’s 500,000-home affordable housing target.

Paul Hackett, director of the Smith Institue think tank, said: “What will happen in 10 years’ time when these tenants, on £20k a year, can’t find anyone to lend them any money?”

Meanwhile Richard Kemp, former Local Government Association housing deputy and now a Liberal Democrat candidate, said: “Most councils don’t have housing departments anymore. The whole thing seems highly unlikely to me.”

The Conservatives’ election manifesto confirmed a number of previously-announced infrastructure commitments, including a £170bn funding plan for the next parliament and support for HS2 and Heathrow.

However, the document ditched the 2015 commitment to “push” forward on Crossrail 2 and contained no mention of the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon or the next generation of new-build nuclear plants.

Earlier last week the Liberal Democrats pledged to spend an “additional” £100bn on infrastructure, increase housing investment to deliver 300,000 homes per year, build Crossrail 2 and spend more on new schools and hospitals.

Over the past week Building has been conducting an election survey online to gain a deeper understanding of the industry’s voting intentions and views on a range of policies that will have an impact on construction, with results to be revealed next week.

As part of our Building a Better Brexit campaign we have also been encouraging readers to download a model letter on our website to send to your constituency candidates setting out the importance of the sector in upcoming Brexit negotiations.