The wheels are falling off Tory housing policy too

The desperate search for shrinking votes has pushed Iain Duncan Smith into yet another spectacular own goal.   His latest pet idea is to extend the Right to Buy to Britain’s 2.5m housing association tenants.   However, whilst social homes are owned by Councils, this latest Tory brainwave means selling off housing association assets which are private property because housing associations are independent charities so that their £65bn in borrowing is securely off the public accounts.   But as Osborne must know only too well, compelling housing associations to sell to tenants using the same Right to Buy discounts enjoyed by Council tenants (up to £102,000 in London and £77,000 elsewhere) would cost serious amounts of taxpayer money and bankrupt some housing associations.   This is yet another unfunded Tory commitment.

Next, on the last sitting day of Parliament to which all the bad news is kept in the hope that hardly anyone will notice, the latest facts came out about homelessness.   The number of children in temporary accommodation reached 90,000 in the 4th quarter of last year, up 25% on 2010.   The number of families with children living in B&B hostels has quadrupled in that time to 2,040.   Of these, 780 were in B&Bs for more than the legal limit of 6 weeks – almost 5 times higher than in 2010.   Yet contrary to his own Department’s statistics, the hapless Tory Communities minister was telling Parliament that the government was “being clear that the long term use of B&B for families with children is both unacceptable and unlawful”!

Then there is the scandal whereby many of the poorest households have been hit by a £70m rent increase as housing associations quietly switch thousands of tenancies on to higher rents to compensate for a shortfall in government funding.   Already nearly 25,000 homes in London have been converted from ‘social’ to so-called ‘affordable’ housing since 2012, and thousands more are to follow.   Social rents are typically half the market rate, whilse ‘affordable’ tariffs are up to 80% of private rent levels – a description that has been called Orwellian.   Many housing associations have exploited the category change to set rents at the highest level so that only affluent people can afford to live in homes originally meant for the poor.   Changing the housing category when new tenants move into a property means neighbours in identical flats can pay vastly different rents.

The real reason behind all these changes which are now hitting poor tenants hard is that the government in 2010 made a 63% cut in capital investment budgets for housing associations – effectively a £3bn reduction in available funding.   Moreover the policy could well turn out to be counter-productive because raising rents is a future burden on the public purse through increased housing benefit costs, and that could potentially outweigh any savings they are trying to make.



9 thoughts on “The wheels are falling off Tory housing policy too

  1. Iain Duncan Smith may he be brought before the hague with his mates for crimes against his own people judas amongst men jeff3

  2. I read a report some time ago which stated 37% of houses sold on Right To Buy are now back on the private rental market and some councils are renting their former properties at market rents. So is it any wonder that the Tories are are in favour of more Right To Buy.
    25% of Tory MPs, 15% of Lib-Dem MPs and 12.5% of Labour MPs are private landlords.
    One Tory MP gets £120,000 a year through housing benefits, another £13,830. Failure to build more houses or control rents costs around £24 billion a year in housing benefits.

  3. In Wales Gwalli is the biggest housing association within Carmarthenshire , now when I moved from my council house to the Housing association it was done under the understanding that all tenants would keep the condition of council housing rentals .

    If I wish I can buy my home which is owned by the Housing association, because most association now do this, I also can claim a rebate from all the years I lived in a council house.

  4. Robert-

    A fair comment which if you hadn’t made it, I wouldn’t have bothered to; this is, (and typically of of post Blair Labor,) completely out of touch, as with most of these issues that only really concern the poorest and most vulnerable in our society, such as Milband’s inane policy about pretending he’d put an end zero hour contracts, (but not really,) and his empty posturing concerning increasing the minimum wage and keeping ATOS, MAXIMUS and WCA and all the other vindictive abuses against the disabled and the unemployed that Blair introduced and which IDS has simply escalated to save his department money, (to then give away in foreign aid, subsidies to the well heeled and so on.)

    The most troubling aspect of it though is how completely confused and uniformed about all this, even someone like Micheal Meacher it actually is?

    Neither IDS nor Mr Meacher seem to be aware that in addition to Thatcher’s right to buy most Housing Association tenants have a Right to Acquire, (though at a lower discount,) their property in most cases.

    Bet they both feel a bit silly now ?

    But the real problem with right to buy, (which was undoubtedly a popular and well received policy,) was that Thatcher, (a class bigot, ideologue and total moron right to end,) refused to allow councils to replace the housing stock she’d ripped off to buy votes.

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  6. Right to buy only worked because it was a double whammy positive – a knock down price for the tenants and millions of pounds which the government eventually allowed to be invested in new housing.

    This new plan is nothing to do with releasing money from locked up assets, but giving tenants a cheaper house at huge cost to everybody else.

    Do we even know if there is demand to buy from these tenants as most are likely to be on housing benefit.

  7. To sum up the Tory manifesto, it is one bribe after another.

    But then we all know that a Tory promise is not worth the paper it is printed on, Cameron lied when he said “there would be no top down re-organisation of the NHS”.

  8. Housing Associations have £60 billion of debt held against future rents. What will happen to these liabilities under the Tories plan ? Where will the money come from if/when councils don’t manage to sell off their most expensive properties ? Giving our taxes as bribes on the sale of 200,000 houses will not go down well with people struggling to keep up their mortgages on private housing.

  9. The Tory plan to sell off housing association properties under right to buy is stupid. There is already a housing shortage and this will make matters worse. However, having seen the labour manifesto today, I think their plans to keep and lower the benefit cap in some areas will be as damaging. We have already seen poor people being pushed out of London because of the cap, and if labour lower it this will happen in other cities. People will again be pushed out to other areas and at worst made homeless. Labour are planning to carry on with austerity and the punishment of the poor and because of this they will not get my vote.

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