Tory ministers took to the airwaves to announce their new housing policy yesterday, Sunday, in a patronising attempt to win over working class voters.
Few details were given, and those that were showed little has changed when it comes to the Tories’ vision of housing.
Defence minister Michael Fallon said that no additional funding would be made available over the measly £1.4 billion that has already been set aside. That amount is already earmarked for funding three different Tory schemes—shared ownership, “affordable” rents and rent-to-buy.
An unspecified amount of the money left after those schemes have been funded will go to building houses to rent for 10 to 15 years. After that they “will be sold to a private owner, landlord, or institutional investor,” according to a Tory press release.
"It's a very attractive policy that will give people a real alternative to waiting and waiting and waiting to get into a council house or flat of their choice," said Fallon on the Andrew Marr show.
But when pushed about the number of homes the policy would provide, former Tory housing minister Brandon Lewis said, “I’m not going to give you a fixed number."
“The fact that the Tories are trying to appeal to people over housing shows the depth of the crisis,” Eileen Short, chair of Defend Council Housing, told Socialist Worker.
The Tories' more specific proposals should set alarm bells ringing for tenants, residents and campaigners.
Fallon talked about how he wants to “strike new deals with the most ambitious councils and housing associations" for access to the small pot of cash. What compromises will councils make for the money?
Compulsory purchase orders, which allow councils to force people out of their homes to make way for redevelopments, are to be “reformed”. That could make it even easier for councils to kick people out of their homes.
The Housing and Planning Act, most of which is stalled for the time being, redefines what “brownfield” land means to include estates and other publicly-owned land. The Tories want to loosen the restrictions for building on brownfield sites.
If the Tories are re-elected they’ll feel confident to dust off the Act and begin to implement it.
The Tories are vulnerable because of their disgraceful record on housing. But Labour needs to put forward clear alternatives.
“People see the housing policies in Labour’s leaked manifesto as the party re-committing itself to council house building,” said Eileen.
Labour’s leaked manifesto says the party will build “100,000 council and housing association homes a year for genuinely affordable rent or sale.”
But housing associations are behaving increasingly like private developers and some are at the heart of the most vicious redevelopment projects. Housing associations are included in the vague category of “social” housing.
“Anger at the state of housing is why people have welcomed Labour’s commitments,” said Eileen. “That makes it all the more important that campaigners and tenants resist backsliding on those commitments and push beyond them for concrete proposals for a mass council house building programme.”
Facts on housing
- 43 percent increase in homelessness since 2010
- One in three Tory MPs in 2017 were private landlords
- £1,745 a year increase in average rent since 2010