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Tories scrap affordable hones to protect house-builders’ profits

Green plastic monopoly houses, by 123rf.comThe Tories have a clever, though nasty, way of doing unpopular things.

First they soften up public opinion by saying the current policy can’t be afforded any more. The Social Fund is too expensive, onshore windpower is too costly, affordable houses can’t be afforded any more.

Then they try to find plausible reasons for cutting back, even though they still claim they’re maintaining the policy. Thus the Social Fund money is delegated to local councils (though the overall pot is substantially cut back) because they have better knowledgeof local needs. Onshore windpower is squeezed by stiffening planning consents because too many people in the countryside are objecting (usually rich landowners). And affordable housing targets are scaled back because it’s hardly economic to build them in an era of austerity (building contractors can’t make enough profit).

Then the truth is finally revealed. The Social Fund (the last resort of a social security system) is abolished altogether. A total stop is placed on any further development of onshore windpower. And the legal requirement on house-builders that a certain small proportion of new build should be affordable homes is ended.

The consequences of this cavalier disregard of personal and environmental need, to be replaced by unqualified obeisance to market forces, are dire. The ending of the provision of affordable housing is the last straw. Publicly rented housing built by local authorities (usually seen as synonymous with affordable housing) stood at 154,500 in 1967; by 1979 this had been halved to 74,800. By the end of Mrs. Thatcher’s tenure this had plummeted to 14,000 in 1990. It then shrivelled further under Major to just 290 by 1997, and under Blair-Brown it remained at between 100-300 a year. This is an utterly shameful story of neglect, and explains why there are now 1,800,000 households on Council waiting lists.

It is a disaster driven by two factors. One is the visceral Tory rejection of any public sector provision even when there is no practicable option: house purchase is beyond the reach of the lowest-paid quarter of the population, while private sector renting is often not available or too expensive. The second driver is the total collapse of the private housing market.

The CBI’s Kate Barker undertook a housing report for Brown a decade ago which concluded that at least 210,000 new homes per year were needed. Since then an average of only 115,000 have been built a year, scarcely more than half the total needed. Within that inadequate total the only leverage that kept affordable houses being built at all was the legal requirement that any new development must include at least a minimal proportion of affordable homes. Now even that has been torn away to pad out the profits of the house-building industry, while nearly 2 million households are left on the housing scrap-heap. That says it all.

Image Credit: Photo ID: 9541874 by  seewhatmitchsee


  1. PoundInYourPocket says:

    Well “affordable” seems to be another Orwellian term, just like “homeless” and “apprenticeship”. none of these terms mean what you expect.
    You are only “homeless” if it’s “unintentional”, and “apprenticeships” now include training to be a solicitor. “Affordable” rent is in most cases a rent below 80% of market value. (Can be 50% in London). But an “affordable” rent shouldn’t be more than 25% of gross income, so a single person on a minimum wage can “afford” a rent of £286 per month. You don’t get much for that these days. It seems that the concept of “affordable” rent is being used to oust the older term “socail” rent, which is much lower and usualy “affordable”. It’s also interesting that goverment guidance is against the use of grants or subsidies to reduce the level of an affordable rent. So in the end “affordable” and “market” are quite difficult to seperate.

  2. Carol Wilcox says:

    You can’t build affordable homes without affordable land. LVT lowers the price of land. LVT is the answer to the housing crisis.

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