Today's housing announcement will make one of Britain's biggest problems even worse
The Conservatives just haven’t got over Thatcher have they? If they had, they probably wouldn’t be so fixated on re-heating her old policies. As someone remarked to me this morning, “David Cameron’s Tories are like a Thatcher tribute band – they play the old favourites even more badly than the original”.
The latest announcement, to coincide with today’s manifesto launch, is a pledge to extend the right-to-buy scheme so that up to 1.3 million housing association tenants in England will be able to buy their homes at a discount.
As I said, re-heated Thatcherism. While there are sometimes those on the left who want to recapture the so-called ‘spirit of ’45’, the Tories are still trying to repackage what they think got Margaret Thatcher repeatedly elected in the 1980s.
But just as it isn’t 1945, it isn’t 1979, either.
So what about the substance of this policy? Well most people are agreed that there is currently a housing crisis in Britain. The country requires around 240,000 new homes each year yet in 2014 fewer than 120,000 were built.
This is having an obvious effect on house prices, which are going only in one direction – and fast. According to the House Builders Federation, in the last 40 years the average house price to salary ratio has almost doubled.
Successive governments have also failed to replenish the social housing stock, and under the coalition the sell-off has hastened. Since 2012, 22,900 council homes have been sold with just 4,800 replacements started and 10,000 planned.
So what the the effect of the latest announcement be?. Well as our housing writer Kevin Gulliver put it last month when the policy was first being touted:
Privatising precious public housing assets would further deplete the social housing stock: there are 1.5m fewer social homes today than in 1979 against a population one fifth larger than back then…
The proposed extension of the Right to Buy, clearly aimed at attracting blue collar workers in key marginals to the Tory banner, will do nothing to tackle a growing backlog of housing demand and will not enable the country to cope with future housing need.
Electioneering is one thing; but today’s housing announcement would likely make one of Britain’s biggest problems significantly worse.
James Bloodworth is the editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter
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