The Tory proposal that would deepen the housing crisis

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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41 Responses to “The Tory proposal that would deepen the housing crisis”

  1. GTE

    You don’t get it do you.

    You rail about inequality, and along comes a proposal that would allow more people to acquire capital, and reduce inequality.

    But no, you’re going to stop the poor from doing that. You’ve got to keep the poor. Keep your boot on their necks.

  2. GTE

    Second observation.

    The housing shortage is caused my migration. If you’re in favour at least own up to the bad effects of your policy.

  3. damon

    I actually agree with the main article. Because OVERALL it will have a negative affect on the housing situation generally. Of course it will be good for individuals who get given a big discount to purchase a house where they have had a privilliged tenancy for years beforehand.

  4. TN

    I knew LFF would be all over this when the announcement was made. Middle class left of centre politics doesn’t appeal to the people this policy clearly does. Which is why Labour’s sanctimonious, aspiration/wealth killing policies (non-dom status, raising the top rate of tax, mansion tax and so forth) isn’t pushing them ahead in the polls. C1/C2 voters don’t share the same fuzzy centre left world view of LFF, let alone harder left wing views.

    Don’t slate people who want to own their own homes. Hard working people don’t care nor want ramped up spending for leftie interests such as benefit scroungers.

  5. TN

    It’s socialist/social democratic hypocrisy from Bloodworth among others. In their eyes, inequality can only be reversed by the overbearing breastfeeding nanny state. But give ordinary people true autonomy and empowerment, it’s dangerous and causes social cleansing.

  6. John

    And when there are no more homes to buy? Whether you like this policy or not we need to build a LOT more homes.

  7. Luke Silburn

    Suggested counter offer. Extend right-to-buy discounts to private tenants.

  8. wilsonjonathan

    I like your thinking, if the government can force private companies (HA’s) to sell private assets (social houses) then they can also force private companies (landlords) to sell private assets (buy to lets) at massive discounts. Wow, just how fucked is the tory party when its policy is the destruction of private assets and private capital.

  9. steroflex

    James, have you ever been to Singapore? They got it absolutely right there. The tall skyscrapers are actually leased to tenants, but they have to be Singaporeans and the lease lasts 99 years. People live there in good order, racially mixed up (government policy) with decent shopping, decent environment, green grass and shade trees. The Police Station where my son lives was actually closed down over New Year because of the lack of business! My son (in advertising) told me that the Police are desperate for new recruits because the job is so terribly boring. Once people get a property to hand on, they form communities and live happily together.

  10. steroflex

    But wait! In the Labour heartlands in the North, I understand there are vast swathes of Public Housing going at ridiculously low rates. Is this not just a London problem?

  11. Chris Kitcher

    This has fuck all to do with allowing the poor to acquire capital. It’s about a desperate useless government using public funds to buy votes for their party. It should be a criminal offence as we will never see new housing replacing the sold ones under the Tories.

  12. Faerieson

    Looking to cash in, Sunshine?

    This has got to be either madness, or some sort of IDS-driven spite. Is it not more likely that an even more acute rental shortage will simply usher in even more inflated rental and housing costs?

    The migration issue is now little more than a distraction- perhaps inviting more distracting xenophobic diatribe- as it matters not who acquires these properties. More houses for private landlords, at the cost of less affordable rents, equates to greater divide.

    Much like the NHS, once they’re gone the will to rebuild is unlikely to ever again prevail. Too many vested interests!

  13. Joe Bloggs

    I have already heard from one of my neighbours who thinks it’s a great idea to get the govt to subsidise the buying of her housing association house.
    If those rat-faced Tories get another five years of power, and she is allowed to buy, her intention is either to sell her house at market value, or rent it out at a huge rent to those desperate enough to pay it.
    I hope Labour get elected.

  14. David Lindsay

    One wonders which other aspects of Thatcherism David Cameron has never quite grasped. If he thinks that the State still owns the housing association stock, then does he also think that the State still owns telecommunications, or the steel industry?

  15. Leon Wolfeson

    Owns it? No, of course not.
    Doesn’t mean he can’t change the law to force it – big government Toryism!

  16. Leon Wolfeson

    Ah, so block people from having shelter based on nationality, with nasty high-rise for the masses.

    They have very little, can’t afford to retire, etc.
    And oh, you mean the cut because of police cuts. Right. The police are seen there as the enemy…that’s all there is to it. Having a scummy little flat in a high rise also does not make a community.

    The evidence against high-rises for long-term housing is clear from studies – what we need is mid-rise.

  17. Leon Wolfeson

    You mean the attempts to sell property which failed, miserably? Oh, those.

  18. Leon Wolfeson

    Oh, those evil people using the NHS and who you fire, evil, evil! Your “hard working” 1%, leeching of the workers, want this sort of anti-housing policy.

    People actually, when presented with individual left-wing policies, come out well WELL to the left of Labour.

    But no, you just want more Brits starving on the streets to push wages down.

  19. Leon Wolfeson


    Nope, immigration is a very minor effect compared to the structural shortage. Your plan of closing the borders and lowering wages is bad.

  20. Guest

    So less and more expensive housing means…ooh…more inequality.
    Keep blaming everyone else for your policies.

  21. Leon Wolfeson

    It’s Lord Blagger. Look at the word choices, the pension rants.
    Reality won’t touch him, he’s got bodyguards to save him from that ( /snark )

  22. Leon Wolfeson

    You’re confused, as ever. This is a big government paternalist policy of forcing non-government entitles to sell assets at the government’s command, well below market values.

  23. David Lindsay

    The great landed estates are subsidised up to their eyeballs, and not, in principle, without good reason. If it matters, by no means all of their residential property is in the countryside.

    I am not advocating this. But if the homes belonging to the housing associations, some of them built after the sale of council houses and therefore never public property, can be forcibly sold (and that at well below the market rate) at the mere breath of David Cameron, then why not also the homes belonging to the great landed estates?

  24. Leon Wolfeson

    Well, I can’t answer that, because I think he’s going to regret this can of worms. Not because of the government selling, but the government buying – if a property is for example not properly managed by a private landlord…

  25. kamaca

    Blaming immigration for the housing shortage makes about as much sense as blaming commuters for over-crowded trains.

  26. Faerieson

    Now, this might just work. We could start with all those ‘starter homes’ that were snaffled up by private landlords.

  27. John

    So there’s not enough housing in London, and too much elsewhere. So why don’t people move out of London?

    oh yes. No jobs. Why is that? How to fix it?

  28. TN

    This sounds like something from someone who has no idea of life in Singapore. Guest/Leon, take your neuroses and/or autism to a doctor.

  29. TN

    By all means, do so but don’t deprive aspiring households of home ownership.

  30. treborc1

    Ball’s is now backing the Tories plan, but only if and no laughing you have a house building program as I suspect labour did when in last time.

  31. treborc1

    You can apply to buy your housing association home if you’ve had a public sector landlord for 5 years. These landlords include:

    housing associations


    the armed services

    NHS trusts and foundation trusts

    Eligible properties

    Your property must either have been:

    built or bought by a housing association after 31 March 1997 (and
    funded through a social housing grant provided by the Housing
    Corporation or local council)

    transferred from a local council to a housing association after 31 March 1997

    Your landlord must be registered with the Homes and Communities Agency.

  32. treborc1

    hate to tell you but Housing association who use Government money have always sold houses to people who have lived in them for more then five years.

  33. Guest

    “UR MAD”

    I have no intention of wasting doctor’s time, of course, unlike you. I’m filly aware of the economics of Singapore, unlike you either.

    And I’m aware of the research done into housing, unlike you. Again.

  34. Leon Wolfeson

    And breaking up communities, etc.

    Fix? Well, the parties could stop making it worse by not cutting when we’re deflating.

  35. Angela Sullivan

    I’m not slating people who want to own their own homes. I am slating people who think they should be able to buy their homes cheap, whilst the rest of us subsidise them. And if they vote in a vile government to fulfill this selfish desire then they are beneath contempt. By all means own your home. But pay for it yourself.

  36. Leon Wolfeson

    Worse, subsidised by the taxpayer and by forced sales from assets – in this case not even assets belonging to the government!

  37. Angela Sullivan

    Council Houses didn’t actually belong to the government when they were sold They belonged to the nation.

  38. Leon Wolfeson

    I was using “government” in the broad sense, you could use “public” there. This plan indisputable moves the plan to forced sales of private assets on a massive scale.

    It’s no different in scope than nationalising companies and selling off the assets to their friends, and is the same kind of big-government capitalist intervention.

  39. Leon Wolfeson

    They’re not. You are – by making sure less stable housing is available, and thus people have less of chance to get their feet under them and save for their own house!

  40. John

    The anemia of the north has been a problem since the time of the milk-snatcher (another thing to thank her for). It’ll take a long time to fix, that requires a great deal of investment.

    So even longer then, since no party seems to have the political will to do so. I kinda hope the SNP DO get into power; that’ll probably see investment in Scotland at least.

  41. Leon Wolfeson

    Anemia to some degree yes, but things like rickets?

    And not really, it could be ended *tomorrow* with a basic income. It’s 100% down to political will.

    If the SNP use their powers selfishly, well… (I will hold a grudge if they do so rather than looking for proper federalisation yes – if they support proper federal powers and then use THOSE, that’s only fair!)

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