Housing minister slammed over misleading social housing claim

Tory MP makes false claims to deflect from Tories dire housing record

The UK’s housing minister has been slammed for making a misleading claim about the Tories record on social housing. 

Lee Rowley said on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the Tories had built “nearly 700,000 social homes, including 170,000 for social rent”, which openDemocracy reported had failed to mention the plummeting stock of social rent homes. 

Rowley went on to say how this showed “there’s been a significant increase in social housing over the last 14 years, just as there’s been a significant increase in housing overall.”

However the Tory MP appeared to have confused social housing with “affordable” housing, which includes privately owned properties.

For many, so-called “affordable” homes are not affordable, usually let for up to 80% of market rates they are out of reach to more than 1.2 million people on housing wait lists, openDemocracy highlighted.

According to the government’s own Regulator of Social Housing there was a decrease of 255,102 genuine social rented homes since 2012, although 361,560 “affordable” homes off-sets this.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said the 700,000 figure used by Rowley had included “affordable rent” housing, as David Cameron allowed this to be legally designated as social housing. 

That is despite widespread criticism from charities and Tory MPs about the term “affordable” housing being used as a way for the Tories to ease the dire social rental figures.

The department did not explain however why he included hundreds of thousands of properties for private sale. 

Green Party MP Sian Berry wrote on X: “The dramatic and continuing loss of social housing across the country is a national scandal, so why was the minister not challenged on air immediately when he made these claims today?”

The Social Housing Action Campaign (SAHC) group accused Rowley of “lying” about the Tories’ record and that it only tells “half the story”.

A SAHC spokesperson said: “The reality is that even the Housing Ombudsman is saying the social housing model has failed – it is broken. But the minister and the rest of the government don’t want to hear it. Instead they’d rather stick their fingers in their ears and just keep saying that everything is getting better.”

Rowley came under further fire after media appearances yesterday in which he talked about the Tories controversial new policy to prioritise social homes for those with ‘UK connections’. 

Shelter, the leading charity fighting homelessness, responded to the Tories “British homes for British people” campaign, blasting it as a “smokescreen” to cover the government’s own ‘failings on housing’.

“This is deeply worrying language that has historically been used to blame migrants for failings in society and to divide people and communities,” Shelter responded.  

“It’s a smokescreen designed to cover up the government’s own failure to tackle the housing emergency.”

(Image credit: Chris McAndrew / Creative Commons)

Hannah Davenport is news reporter at Left Foot Forward, focusing on trade unions and environmental issues

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